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State headed for income tax?

Chandler signs letter objecting to latest effort

— The people who are attempting to impose a state income tax on Washingtonians are trying to get there with the same tactic used to kill the $30 license tab fee.

The city of Seattle, which recently enacted a citywide income tax, is being challenged in court.

There is a law, RCW 36.65.030, which has been on the books for more than 30 years, that prohibits local governments from imposing income taxes on net income.

The Economic Oppor­tunity Institute, a Seattle-based think tank supporting the city’s position, asserts in a motion to intervene in the case, that Washington’s statute violates the state Constitution which prohibits legislation from having more than one subject.

That was how the state supreme court knocked down the Tim Eyman initiative for the $30 license tab.

Rep. Terry Nealey of Dayton, ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee, and 35 other  House Republican lawmakers, have sent a letter to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson Tuesday urging his office to defend the constitutionality of a state law which has recently been attacked in state courts.

One of those to sign is Granger’s Bruce Chandler. He has not doubt the Democrats are looking for a way get a state income tax.

“If the lawsuit fails, then that sets the stage for a referendum to the people,” he said.

According to Nealey, the intervention is a clear attempt to broaden advocacy for adoption of local income taxes, not just in Seattle, but in multiple jurisdictions across the state.

“I believe the Democrats are very serious about getting a state income tax,” Chandler said. “They have an insatiable appetite for spending other people’s money.

Nealey said Democrats want to open the floodgates for income taxes in every part of Washington. It’s a dangerous, slippery slope, he said, that would lead to a confusing hodgepodge of local income taxes at varying rates with differing administrative rules.

Although the attorney general declined a request by the plaintiff against Seattle to get involved in the suit earlier this summer, Nealey said he and the other Republican lawmakers who signed felt it necessary because circumstances have changed.

A Sept. 7 blog by the Washington Policy Center provided an initial alert to the institute’s motion to intervene.

Nealey said that when it became clear Sept. 20 that the judge granted the motion — also blogged by the center — it was time to ask the attorney general to get involved.

“This lawsuit is very clearly not just about Seattle’s ordinance,” Nealey said.

“There is a party to the suit who now seeks to invalidate a state law that protects all state taxpayers and promotes a level playing field for commerce,” Nealey said.

“It is the attorney general’s responsibility to represent the state in all cases in which the state has an interest, Nealey continued. “Therefore, we are asking the attorney general to vigorously defend the constitutionality of state law that prohibits imposition of local income taxes.”

Nealey said the more appropriate venue to discuss and debate local authority to impose income taxes is in Olympia, not in the courts.

“Let’s have that debate here in the state Legislature. Let the citizens come forward from communities throughout Washington to testify in open public hearings on this issue,” Nealey said.

“Until then, we expect our attorney general to vigorously defend state law and the citizens we represent against this backdoor attempt to impose income taxes across Washington.”

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