Seattle Council adopts illegal and unnecessary income tax

Jul 10, 2017

For Immediate Release                                                                                                          Contact:
July 10, 2017                                                                                                                          Molly Sheerer (206) 937-9691


Today, the Seattle City Council voted to impose an illegal city income tax. Washington Policy Center believes the proposal is bad public policy. Not only are Seattle leaders giving up one of our main economic and social advantages, but the new tax will be immediately tied up in the courts for years, sparking needless controversy and wasting city money on a potentially pointless lawsuit.

“We are greatly disappointed the Seattle City Council voted to impose a clearly illegal and unnecessary income tax,” said Dann Mead Smith, president of Washington Policy Center. “As a life-long Seattle resident, it is frustrating to see the Seattle City Council choose to waste taxpayer dollars on lawsuits for an income tax that is not needed.”

The city of Seattle’s budget has grown 33% in the last 4 years and is on track to continue growing.  

Seattle officials says the state’s graduated income tax ban is unclear, but as the state supreme court said in 1951 when invalidating an income tax: “It is no longer subject to question in this court that income is property.”

The city’s decision to pass a bill that violates state law and supreme court precedents teaches the public that it is acceptable to ignore the law if it is to your advantage.  The violation is so obvious that city leaders know they are inviting a lawsuit, as citizens seek to defend their rights under state law and the state constitution.

Washington voters have rejected a state income tax nine times.

There is also a 1984 state law that explicitly prohibits local governments from imposing an income tax.  That law says, “Tax on net income prohibited - A county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income.”

With today’s political vote, litigation is guaranteed as taxpayers turn to the courts to protect them from the Seattle City Council’s decision to adopt an illegal and unnecessary income tax.

The data is clear; this income tax is not needed, not legal, and it will inevitably impact low and middle income families, too.

To learn more about Washington Policy Center’s work on the income tax in Seattle, visit our site,

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