SJR 8204: Prohibiting a personal state or local income tax by amending the state constitution

By JASON MERCIER  | 
LEGISLATIVE MEMO
|
Feb 13, 2017

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Key Findings

  • Washington is one of nine states that currently do not impose an income tax.
  • Washington state voters have rejected an income tax nine times.
  • Under a 1933 state Supreme Court ruling, imposing a graduated income tax in Washington would require a constitutional amendment. 
  • In recent years, however, supporters of imposing an income tax have been seeking to find a test case in the belief that today’s state supreme court would overturn established case law and allow a graduated income tax without a constitutional amendment. 
  • SJR 8204 would take this tax policy decision out of the hands of five justices and make it crystal clear that our state constitution does not allow a personal income tax.

 

Introduction

            Washington is one of nine states that currently do not impose an income tax. The importance of this policy to our state can be found on the state Department of Commerce’s “Choose Washington” website that is used to promote the state to businesses. Commerce officials boast, “We offer businesses some competitive advantages found in few other states. This includes no personal or corporate income tax.”[1]

Under a 1933 state Supreme Court ruling, imposing a graduated income tax in Washington would require a constitutional amendment.  In recent years, however, supporters of imposing an income tax have been seeking to find a test case in the belief that today’s state supreme court would overturn established case law and allow a graduated income tax without a constitutional amendment.  SJR 8204 would take this tax policy decision out of the hands of five justices and make it crystal clear that our state constitution does not allow a personal income tax.


[1] “"Choose Washington" - no capital gains taxes ,” By Jason Mercier, Washington Policy Center, March 3, 2015 at http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/detail/choose-washington-no-capital-gains-taxes