All Politics is Local

Why Rep. Brandon Vick cares about Seattle’s income tax

State Rep. Brandon Vick, avowed foe of income taxes.

State Rep. Brandon Vick, avowed foe of income taxes.

State Rep. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, has Seattle and income taxes on his mind this legislative session.

Vick has introduced House Bill 1588, which would prevent local governments from implementing a tax on the income of a household or individual.

Washington does not have an income tax and previous attempts at enacting one have fallen flat. The most recent attempt came in 2010 via a ballot initiative that was voted down by 64 percent of Washington voters.

But that hasn’t stopped local jurisdictions, including Seattle and Olympia, from seeking to enact local income taxes on wealthier households that reside within their borders. In 2017, Seattle tried to sidestep the state’s ban on net income taxes at the local level with a measure that was billed as an excise tax on the total income of wealthier households.

Last month, the state Supreme Court declined to take up a lower-court ruling that struck down Seattle’s income tax. The matter is currently in appellate court.

In a news release, Vick said that he introduced the legislation in response to some lawmakers voicing their support for an income tax, as well as Gov. Jay Inslee’s call for a capital gains tax (which critics say is really just an income tax). In the release, Vick cited state law that prohibits cities or counties from enacting taxes on net income.

So why does Vick care if Seattle, which is about a two-hour drive from his district, enact an income tax? An estimated 70,000 Clark County residents commute to Oregon for work and are required to pay the state’s income tax. Are local elected officials in Clark County secretly plotting to forever tarnish their political careers by pursuing an income tax?

Vick said in a text that he’s worried that if Seattle and Olympia get their way on income taxes, the idea will spread across the state.

“I am concerned about what Seattle is doing because they are attempting to circumvent the legislative process and have the judiciary change the law of the land,” he said. “My legislation would remove any possible ambiguity in the law.”

Other House Republicans from Clark County have also signed on to Vick’s legislation, including Larry Hoff, Paul Harris and Vicki Kraft.

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