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New House Speaker says state isn’t ready to tackle income tax

The income tax continues to spark debate statewide.(Chris Potter, Flickr)

The debate surrounding an income tax in Washington has raged in recent weeks, but as state lawmakers prepare for the next legislative session, it hasn’t exactly been a priority.

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“I haven’t seen any really strong interest in the House in the income tax … nor have I seen that in the populace,” newly-instated Speaker of the State House Rep. Laurie Jinkins told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

Washington is one of just a small handful of states that doesn’t impose an income tax, as part of a battle that dates all the way back to the 1890s. Today, the state has what many describe as one of the most regressive tax structures in the nation.

That being so, Jinkins still hopes to address that issue, albeit not from the income tax angle.

“We do need to do things to make a more progressive tax structure,” she noted. “Our poorest 20 percent of our population spends 17 cents of every dollar they earn on taxes, and the wealthiest spends about 2.3 cents of every dollar they earn on taxes — that’s patently unfair.”

In lieu of addressing the income tax, Jinkins instead has pushed for a capital gains tax, having sponsored legislation to that end for the better part of the last six to seven years.

But even despite being one of its biggest proponents, she also now has to balance her role as the Speaker of the Washington State House. That has her considering not just her own legislative agenda, but also the agenda of the entire House.

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“As Speaker, this isn’t not just about me running my bills and my ideas — this is about me representing the Democratic caucus, making sure that we engage in dialogue … and decide together how we want to move forward,” Jinkins described.

To aid in that mission, the Legislature recently commissioned a work group to take a long, hard look at the state’s tax structure, and recommend potential changes.

“I think (the work group) will start to look at some of those constitutional issues and some of the options that we have … and I expect that they’re gonna hopefully provide a fair number of options for us to consider,” Jinkins said.

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