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Judge shoots down Seattle’s new income tax

Foundation challenged city

— A King County Superior Court judge on Wednesday agreed with the Freedom Foundation that Seattle’s income tax on the city’s high earners violates state law.

The city will almost certainly appeal the ruling to the Washington State Supreme Court, the foundation said afterward. 

The judge heard arguments Nov. 17, and Superior Court Judge John R. Ruhl delivered on his promise of a ruling before Thanksgiving. 

Washington statutory law and the state Constitution prohibit tax plans that impose one rate on lower-income individuals and a higher rate for those with more money — which Seattle’s does, said Tom McCabe, chief of litigation for the foundation.

McCabe said Seattle City Council members understood full well the flaws in their tax scheme, but passed it anyway hoping an activist lower court judge or Supreme Court would agree to substitute their liberal agenda.

Ruhl’s decision noted:

“Regardless of what label one may choose in classifying the city’s tax, the requirement remains that the Legislature must specifically authorize the tax.

“The city has not identified any specific statutory authorization for its tax.”

“In our system of government, the Legislature makes laws and the courts interpret them,” Freedom Foundation Chief Litigation Counsel David Dewhirst said list.”

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