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Legislature holds first Hearing on initiative to Ban State Income Tax in Washington

Legislature holds first Hearing on initiative to Ban State Income Tax in Washington

An attempt to prevent the state, counties, and local governments from implementing any new income taxes was discussed on Tuesday during a joint session of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means Committees in Olympia.

Over 6,000 individuals endorsed I-2111 during the hearing, and around 650 opposed the idea.

I-2111 is one of six initiatives supported by Let’s Go Washington and was officially approved by the Secretary of State in January. This has led Republican lawmakers and supporters of the initiatives to urge Democratic leadership to schedule hearings before the Legislature ends on March 7. This is the inaugural project to be considered in this session.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, expressed his backing for the initiative at the hearing, mentioning that he was the individual who submitted I-2111 to the Secretary of State.

Initiative 2111 aims to enshrine in law the state’s enduring practice of not implementing a personal income tax, according to Walsh.

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Walsh stated that the idea was specifically designed to apply just to personal income and he believed it would also block any future attempts to introduce an income tax. Others expressed dissent over I-2111.

Marcy Bowers, executive director of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, expressed opposition to the plan, stating that it does not benefit Washingtonians.

“We require public investments to elevate individuals and support our fundamental safety net infrastructure,” she stated. “We should not waste time discussing proposals that are so ambiguously worded that they are ineffective.”

If I-2111 is approved by the Legislature or voters, it will not abolish or affect existing taxes or tax systems in the state. Instead, it will only pertain to future taxes imposed on gross income, according to Steve Ewing, a legislative and external affairs liaison for the Washington state Department of Revenue.

Washington does not impose a tax on personal income and instead has a regressive tax system that mainly depends on sales tax. The Washington State Supreme Court ruled an income tax authorized by voters in 1932 as illegal. Subsequent attempts to pass an income tax through voter approval have been unsuccessful.

Lawmakers will consider two additional initiatives: one concerning parental rights and another aiming to roll back police chase legislation, in addition to the income tax initiative discussed on Tuesday. Democratic lawmakers have announced that they will not conduct hearings on three other measures, including one to abolish the capital gains tax and another to repeal parts of the Climate Commitment Act.

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Consequently, these initiatives will be directly placed on the Nov. 5 ballot. Washington was among the pioneering states to implement an initiative and referendum procedure in 1912, as stated on the Secretary of State website.

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