To: The Washington State House, The Washington State Senate, and Governor Jay Inslee
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.
Why is this important?
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.
There are proposals afloat to raise the gas tax and to pass a carbon tax; both of those are regressive. A capital gains tax and a tax expenditure budget are also under consideration. These changes to our tax system deserve thorough discussion and analysis.
The proposed high level commission, hearings, speeches and essays will help move the state towards a sustainable and equitable funding model.
Note: this petition was co-authored with Steve Zemke of TaxSanity.org .
For discussion of this effort, please visit:
To see the list of signers and their comments, please visit: http://waliberals.org/WATaxFixers.html
Here is a resolution which your political organization might pass: