November 20, 2017
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Judge hears hours of argument on Seattle income tax; ruling expected soon



Seattle's income tax on high wage-earners, passed by the City Council in July, is entering into the long-expected legal fight that could result in another state Supreme Court ruling on the legality of an income tax in Washington.

On Friday, King County Superior Court Judge John Rhule heard arguments from the city in favor of its 2.25 percent income tax on individuals earning more than $250,000 a year or couples making more than $500,000. KOMO News has video from the courtroom. Among the city's arguments is that the tax is an “excise tax,” or a tax on the privilege of living and acquiring income in Seattle. The city's attorney said that those who didn't want to pay the tax could "move to Bellevue."

Opponents of the tax said the city was trying hard to argue against what they say is the plain fact that this is an income tax, which has been deemed unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court and is banned by state law.

“They are trying to say it’s not a net income tax,” said Phil Talmadge, former State Supreme Court Justice and attorney representing several of the plaintiffs. “The Legislature has passed a statute that's 100 percent clear saying they can't do what they are doing. Taxpayers of the city of Seattle ought to be worried about that kind of abuse of power."

Opportunity Washington took a look at Friday's legal action, saying the court hearing "was a necessary stop on the road to the state Supreme Court."

The Washington Policy Center's Jason Mercier offered these notes from the courtroom. The blog SCC Insight took a deep look into the legal history of Washington's income tax and how case law dating back to 1930 could be at play here.

Rhule declined to rule from the bench. His written ruling could come as early as this week.

The Tri-City Herald said the entire state needs to keep a careful eye on the legal fight in Seattle, noting that supporters of the income tax there have said they hope to use the court case to advance an income tax statewide.



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Continue Bipartisan Successes


One-party rule in Olympia should not end bipartisan effort

By Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville

The election this month of Democrat Manka Dhingra to represent the people of the 45th legislative district changes the landscape of the Washington state Senate, resulting in a return to one-party rule in Olympia.

However, it does not have to change the bipartisan way in which the Legislature has operated since a group of Democrats joined with Republicans in 2013 to govern by consensus, ushering in unprecedented achievements.

For the past five years, the bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus controlled the Senate, while Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and governor's mansion. For measures to pass, members of both chambers had to debate, negotiate and compromise.

This process resulted in the passage of historic legislation, such as the first-ever college-tuition reduction, a $16 billion transportation package and a plan to fully fund basic education with equitable levy reform...

Read the full op-ed in The Seattle Times
Legal Maneuvers


Be watchful of Seattle's income tax

By The Tri-City Herald Editorial Board

In July, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to impose an income tax on its wealthiest citizens, knowing full well the decision would end up challenged in court.

That apparently was part of the strategy.

By spurring debate, advocates for the Seattle income tax hope to reverse historical precedent and open the door so other communities can follow Seattle's lead.

If that were to happen, it's reasonable to think the next step would be an effort to impose an income tax statewide. That's why we should be watching this issue closely.

Read the full editorial in The Tri-City Herald
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