Spokane County latest to oppose local income tax

Dec 14, 2021

Spokane County Commissioners today unanimously adopted a resolution opposing a local income tax. Spokane County is the third county to act joining Franklin County and Yakima County as well as 11 Washingtons cities with local income tax bans including Battle Ground, DuPont, Granger, Kennewick, Longview, Moses Lake, Richland, Spokane, Spokane Valley, Union Gap and Yakima.

From the Spokane County resolution:

“Board of County Commissioners of Spokane County opposes the imposition of a local income tax on the businesses and residents of unincorporated Spokane County. Such a tax would be in direct conflict with the high value Spokane County places on promoting economic development through the attraction and expansion of financially healthy, family wage paying employers. Small businesses are the backbone of our local, regional, state, and national economy and it is imperative that Spokane County not put unnecessary hurdles in the way of their success. As such, the Board of Spokane County Commissioners opposes the imposition of a local income tax in the event a local income tax is determined legal and permissible by the Washington State Legislature or the Washington State Supreme Court.”

Josh Kerns, Chair of the Spokane County Board of Commissioners, said in a press release:

“As Commissioners, we have a responsibility to protect the well-being of our community. Small businesses and families have been hit hard enough by the pandemic. The last thing they need now is the government to come in and take away even more of their hard-earned money. This resolution simply draws a line in the sand for something we won’t stand by and watch happen.”

Local governments are passing these bans in response to a surprising 2019 Court of Appeals ruling that opened the door to a flat 1% local income tax. The state Supreme Court let this ruling stand by not hearing the appeal.

Earlier this year the legislature adopted an unconstitutional capital gains income tax (while refusing to pre-empt cities from imposing a local version) with the stated goal from supporters of using the courts to open the door to income taxes across the state. The capital gains income tax is currently subject of litigation.

In response to these ongoing efforts to impose an income tax, the Tri-City Herald editorial board wrote in September after Kennewick adopted an income tax ban:

“If enough individual communities rise up against just the idea of an income tax, perhaps lawmakers will stop trying to force the issue and instead focus on other tax reforms that would be more acceptable to the general public . . . Other cities should add momentum to this anti-tax drive, including Richland, West Richland, Pasco, Benton City, Prosser and Connell. The more who join in the message, the more forceful it will be.”

Not only have Washingtonians rejected 10 straight income tax ballot measures (including six proposed constitutional amendments), but last week the WA Tax Structure Work Group received an update from its consultant on the community meetings and outreach that occurred earlier this year showing voters are still opposed to an income tax.

As more cities and counties act to ban a local income tax, hopefully this clear and consistent message opposing an income tax will finally be heard by state lawmakers and the Governor.

Additional Information
No surprise, Tax Structure Work Group process finds voters still don’t want income tax
Briefs filed in capital gains income tax lawsuit
Yakima voters overwhelming adopt local income tax ban charter amendment
Washington cities move to prohibit local income taxes

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