Senator calls on Attorney General to defend state’s local income tax ban

Jul 17, 2019

With the dust still settling from Monday’s shocking Court of Appeals income tax ruling, Senator Steve O’Ban today sent a letter to the Attorney General demanding that he defend the state’s local income tax ban. That 35-year-old local income tax ban was shockingly ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals on Monday.

From the Senator’s letter to the Attorney General:

“Nearly two years ago, a group of legislators laid out the state's interest in having its validly enacted laws defended in the court system by your office, but you declined to defend the state law. To be frank, that decision is incompatible with your duty.

You have an opportunity now to remedy that error by intervening in the case and defending RCW 36.65.030 (and the entirety of RCW Chapter 36.65) before the Supreme Court.

Every client is entitled to a defense. The state is your client. And a state law in place for over 35 years has just been found invalid on grounds rarely invoked by the court system. We expect you to represent the state's interest by defending the constitutionality of the law.

We would appreciate a reply by August 1. In the event that you decline to follow the mandates imposed on you by RCW 43.10.030, we reserve the right to seek remedial recourse.”

Sen. O’Ban also sent a letter to the Senate Facilities and Operations Committee asking it to “authorize an expenditure of funds to hire counsel to file an amicus brief on this case if it is taken up by the Washington Supreme Court.”

That letter concluded:

“As an income tax has been defeated ten times in this state, proactive action by the Legislature on this matter will be greatly appreciated by an overwhelming majority of our citizens.”

Sen. O’Ban also announced in a press release he would “pre-file a bill for the 2020 legislative session solidifying the ban on local income taxes.”

Needless to say, the 2020 legislative session will now have several income tax debates beyond the efforts to impose a capital gains income tax.

UPDATED (7/26)

The Attorney General sent a response letter on July 25. Sounds like a no from him on intervening to defend the state's local income tax ban.

Additional Information
Good news, bad news on local income taxes
Analyst: Seattle wants SCOWA to pass income tax because voters won’t
Washington Policy Center breaks down the court of appeals' ruling in favor of an income tax