Rep. Brandon Vick introduces legislation to prevent local governments from implementing an income tax

While some local governments in Washington state are looking to pass an income tax on to its residents, state Rep. Brandon Vick has introduced legislation at the state level to stop it from happening.

Tuesday, Vick introduced House Bill 2212 that would prevent local governments from imposing an income tax on an individual’s or household’s income.

“Most feel the law is clear on this issue, no local income tax allowed. Given the recent action of some local governments that is not the case, and we need a strong and concise law to put a halt to this discussion. My bill would make the prohibition of a local income tax abundantly clear and final,” said Vick, R-Felida. “Cities such as Seattle and Olympia seem to be confused or simply do not care where the public stands on this issue.”

Last fall, income tax supporters placed a local income tax measure on the ballot in Olympia, but it was rejected by voters. Last week, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution to put a plan in motion to enact an income tax.

“Seattle’s approach is undemocratic. They are circumventing the will of the voters by not giving them a chance to voice their opinion at the ballot box. I am sure they do not want to put this issue before the voters for fear of it being rejected. The voters have spoken on this issue many times, and have yet to approve an income tax measure. If local governments do not want to give the voters the opportunity to weigh in, I am willing to lead the charge in the Legislature.

“From what I can tell, the council has not approached the Legislature either. I have not seen any bills this session that would allow for a local income tax. Instead of working the issue through their legislative delegation, it seems they would rather find a sympathetic court to side with them,” Vick said.

Washington state voters have rejected a statewide income tax seven times since the Washington State Supreme Court overturned Initiative 69 in 1933. The latest being in 2010 when the proposed income tax measured failed in all 39 counties with 64 percent “no” vote.

Current Washington state law reads “a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income.” It is a result of Camas’ Citizen of the Century and former Sen. Hal Zimmerman introducing Senate Bill 4313 in 1984. He drafted the legislation in response to an Attorney’s General (AG) opinion initiated by questions from Clark County. Zimmerman wanted to clear up any doubt created by the AG opinion about city-county government being able to have an income tax. His bill passed the Senate with strong, bipartisan support – 43-5 in the Senate and 94-1 in the House.

“While I never had the chance to meet Sen. Zimmerman, I am grateful to continue his efforts to fight for the taxpayers of Washington state. The fact that he also represented southwest Washington makes it that much more special,” Vick said.

Vick is also concerned about the volatility of an income tax.

“Any government entity wanting to solve their budget woes or look to increase their tax revenue by implementing an income tax should think twice. Oregon, our neighbor to the south, relies on an income tax. A 2015 report points out that during the past two recessions, Oregon’s general fund revenues dropped twice as much as in a typical state,” said Vick. “We have had a number of presentations before the House Finance Committee on the volatility of an income tax. Plus, Washington is experiencing record levels of tax revenue right now, about a 13 percent increase over the last biennium. In fact, our state also uses the lack of an income tax as a selling point for business.”

On the other side of country, Connecticut, despite having two high-end tax increases on its income tax in the last six years, is more than $2 billion in the red.

Washington is one of nine states that does not impose an income tax. Washington State’s Department of Commerce also touts the fact on their “Choose Washington” website that is used to promote Washington as a great place to do business.

Vick’s bill has not been referred to a House committee yet. The Legislature is on day 16 of a 30-day special session called by the governor on April 24.


Washington State House Republican Communications