McKenna on KIRO: Income tax vote in Olympia

KIRO 97.3 host Dave Ross asked Rob about the city income tax on the ballot in Olympia. Supporters admit that it’s simply a way to try to get an income tax case before the state Supreme Court, with the eventual goal of a statewide progressive income tax.

Dave Ross: “Whether you endorse this or not, could this in fact become the kind of vehicle that the supporters want? In other words, could it get the Supreme Court to issue a ruling which then clears the way for a statewide income tax?”

Rob McKenna: “Possibly, but it faces a lot of other barriers before it even gets to the Supreme Court. There’s a 1984 state law that says a city ‘shall not levy a tax on net income,’ which could be another way a court would strike this down. Now the backers say, ‘It’s not a tax on net income, it’s an excise tax,’ but that just looks like just an exercise in gamesmanship to me.

“And then of course, even if they persuade our current Supreme Court, which is left-of-center, to change 80 years of Supreme Court precedent – even if they succeed in that – there’s the little problem of voter hostility. There have been repeated efforts to pass an income tax by popular initiative – the theory being we’ll pass it first, get the court to uphold it later. All of them have lost, and they’ve lost by big, big margins.”

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