Washington state’s tax system is broken. We have pressing state needs but do not fairly collect revenue to adequately fund needed state public services like education and health care. We rank in the bottom third of states in raising revenue. The Department of Revenue in January 2013 stated:
Washington ranked 36th from the top in state and local taxes paid per $1,000 of personal income in 2010, according to Census Bureau data published by the Washington State Department of Revenue.
At the same time we are ranked by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy as having the most regressive tax system in the country.
Washington State, which does not have an income tax, is the highest-tax state in the country for poor people. In fact, when all state and local sales, excise and property taxes are tallied up, Washington’s poor families pay 16.9 percent of their total income in state and local taxes.
Meanwhile the top 1% pay only 2.8% of their income in state and local taxes. This is a terribly unfair tax system that has shifted taxes onto those least able to pay.
Don Smith and I co-authored a MoveOn.org petition calling for the Washington State Legislature and Governor Inslee to pass legislation and funding to create a new Tax Reform Commission to study and recommend ways to fix our broken tax system.
We ask that you show your support for a new Tax Study Commission and the need for reforming our tax system by signing our petition. Add your name to the 3800 people have already signed. Thanks.
Click on the headline directly below to sign the petition.
Let’s fix our unfair tax system in Washington State
Washington State has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country. In order to fix our broken, upside-down tax system, we first need to educate the public about the facts. But neither Governor Inslee nor the state legislators are making significant effort towards educating the public about why we need progressive taxation. We ask Governor Inslee to appoint a high level commission to evaluate our regressive tax system and propose changes that would allow the state to adequately fund education, social services and other essential needs. The commission should hold hearings throughout the state, solicit input from the public, and publicize its findings widely. We also call on Governor Inslee and the Democratic leadership to make speeches, publish essays, and hold public forums for discussion of this central issue.
In Washington State, the middle class and poor pay a higher percentage of their income in state taxes than do the rich, due to a reliance on the regressive sales tax to fund state government.
Even the Business and Occupation tax is regressive: it taxes revenue, not profit, and so it favors profitable corporations over struggling small businesses.
Another cause of unfairness is the existence of tax loopholes for certain wealthy corporations.
In fact, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The poorest 20% of non-elderly Washingtonians pay 17% of their income in state taxes; the richest 1% pay under 3% of their income in state taxes. (Source: http://www.itep.org/pdf/wa.pdf .)
The state desperately needs a reliable source of funds to pay for education pursuant to the State Supreme Court decision in the McCleary case, which declares that the legislature is underfunding K-12 education.
Additionally, in recent years the state has had to slash funding for social services and for higher education, causing real suffering among vulnerable people, threatening our prosperity and safety, and drastically raising the cost of a college education.
Voters in 2010 rejected I-1098, the initiative to establish a high earners’ income tax in Washington State. Most voters were voting against their own self-interest, because only the richest 2% of citizens would have seen their taxes rise.
But up until now, only a few advocacy groups have spoken up about this issue. Our political leaders should make the effort to educate the public about all the ways we need government and about progressive taxation. In other words, our political leaders should actually lead and not just follow.
The proposed high level commission, hearings, speeches and essays will help move the state towards a sustainable and equitable funding model.
For discussion of this effort, please visit:
To see the list of signers and their comments, please visit: http://waliberals.org/WATaxFixers.html