Head tax steals spotlight, but Seattle income-tax crusade alive and well

May 18, 2018

A new tax plan from the Seattle City Council is getting all the attention these days – a “head tax” that might best be described as a tax on jobs created by Seattle’s largest employers. But the city’s crusade for an income tax is alive and well and is working its way through the courts.

On Dec. 11, the city appealed the ruling of Superior Court Judge John Ruhl that a city income tax is illegal under Washington state law. It is asking the state Supreme Court to take the case directly, without going to the Court of Appeals first. That would achieve one goal – placing the case before the Supreme Court in a way that could allow it to overturn its 1933 ruling that an income tax requires a constitutional amendment and a public vote. The Supreme Court has yet to announce that it will take the case.

The city has agreed to pay Pacifica Law Group, a firm representing liberal political causes, up to $250,000 to pursue the case. That is in addition to the $50,000 the city has paid the Economic Opportunity Institute, a liberal think tank, for consulting services. City officials have said they do not expect the case to be resolved until 2019.

Seattle Times, Dec. 1, 2017: Appeal likely in ‘longshot’ income-tax case, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says

KIRO Radio, Dec. 9, 2017: Seattle makes first step to taking its income tax to Supreme Court

KIRO TV, Jan. 16, 2018: Two perspectives on the controversial Seattle income tax

Seattle Times, April 23, 2018: Seattle playing wait-and-see with income tax on the wealthy