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Overwhelming number of people speak in favor of Seattle income tax

People packed into City Hall to show support for an income tax on Wednesday. (City of Seattle)

An overwhelming number of people spoke in support of a citywide income tax in Seattle on Wednesday at City Hall.

People in support of taxing the richest residents cited everything from “simple justice,” to the untapped pool of money that could be used to deal with pressing problems like homelessness and drug abuse.

The proposed tax would be 1.5 percent on adjusted gross income over $250,000 per year. Councilmember Lisa Herbold says there are still many undecided details, chiefly how that income level would be calculated.

The legal basis for such a selective tax is shaky and whatever the final form, legal analysts and the city attorney’s office believe there would be a legal fight to make the tax stick. But that isn’t quieting support for such a tax.

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“They stole from the workers, so rise up and tax the rich, please,” one public speaker said.

The Seattle Democratic Socialists of America, the Seattle Transit Riders Union, and other groups encouraged people to pack City Hall.

Stewart with Trump Proof Seattle told a packed house that by taxing the rich, Seattle “truly” has a chance to be a sanctuary city.

“So you know the saying, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Well in Seattle, this is not just a truism, but an acute reality,” another speaker said.

According to KIRO 7, citing a report, Seattle has the most regressive state and local tax system in the country.

Regressive tax means the rate goes down as personal incomes go higher–lower income earners pay higher tax rates than the highest earners. The proposal would reverse that and create a progressive tax where the wealthiest pay the highest tax rate.

Proponents say it would create a more even playing field in a city that’s becoming too expensive for low to middle-income taxpayers to afford.

However, others say the majority of the wealthiest taxpayers in the city are small business owners, managers, and professionals with incomes of $250,000 or more.

Some, including former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, has warned of an income tax and what it could do to business in the city.

“In Seattle’s case, it is a beautiful place to live,” he said. “It is a place, now, that is a center of talent in the tech industry, and success and talent will breed startups and more of that sort of thing. What are the things that can undo it? Unfavorable business climate.”

An income tax would be included in that “unfavorable business climate.”

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