Sen. Liz Lovelett, D-Anacortes, is among 15 state legislators who are asking the state Supreme Court to weigh in once again on the constitutionality of an income tax.
With the filing of the brief, the legislators — all Democrats — have joined businesses, governments and think tanks in an argument over the equity of Washington state’s tax structure, and whether the wealthy are paying their share.
The case sparking the brief, Kunath v. Seattle, came after Seattle implemented a citywide income tax. Both superior and appellate courts have ruled against the city, and the Supreme Court has not yet decided whether to hear the case.
Lovelett said an income tax should be on the table when it comes to long-overdue discussions on tax reform.
“I think with an income tax comes the obligation to overhaul the entire tax system,” she said, adding an income tax would replace existing taxes that are disproportionately paid by low-income residents.
According to the brief, low-income families in the state spend on average 17.8% of their income on state and local taxes. The highest earners — the top 4% — spend 4.7% of their income.
“The regressive nature of the tax system in Washington state and on Seattle, in particular, is indisputable,” the brief states.
Lovelett acknowledges that the idea of an income tax is unpopular publicly, and said if she were to push for an income tax it would replace existing regressive taxes, such as sales tax or business and occupation tax.
The Supreme Court has ruled against income taxes in several decisions since 1933, saying the 14th amendment to the state Constitution prohibits taxes that aren’t applied uniformly to all payers.
Lovelett is the only legislator from Skagit County who signed on to the brief.