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The State Supreme Court’s Failure to Review 2017 ‘Tax the Rich’ Legislation Is Precisely Why We Need the Amazon Tax Plus a Tax on Rich Individuals

On April 3, the Washington State Supreme Court refused to review the 2017 ‘Tax the Rich’ legislation sponsored by my office and Councilmember Lisa Herbold. As a result, the lower court ruling stands. This ruling gives Seattle the authority to implement taxes on income, but only if it follows all Washington State restrictions on property taxes.

Since its passage in 2017, the legislation has been tied up in a legal challenge that ended on April 3.  The Tax the Rich legislation was supported by a grassroots movement, the Trump Proof Seattle Coalition. It only taxed the income of people making more than $250,000 per year.  I have instructed staff to research progressive income tax options following the Supreme Court announcement and issued the following statement in response:

The State Supreme Court’s failure to review the Tax the Rich legislation that my office co-sponsored and fought for, along with the Trump-Proof Seattle Coalition in 2017, is a total abdication of responsibility. It is an example of how the establishment and the institutions under capitalism primarily protect the greed of the wealthy, who have profited spectacularly at the expense of the vast majority of working people.

Both the Amazon Tax on the largest corporations in the city, and a tax on rich individuals introduced this year are necessary to address the housing affordability crisis, which will be exacerbated in the coming months, and the severe revenue shortfalls resulting from massive job losses and the regressive tax structure. Our movement completely opposes any cuts to public services and programs, which the State government has already shamefully begun. 

Yesterday (April 9), I asked City Council staff to research every legal avenue to adapt the 2017 Tax the Rich legislation to generate revenues by taxing rich individuals, while exempting working-class people. My goal is to allow the 2017 Tax the Rich legislation to be modified under the new legal framework, without becoming yet another regressive or flat tax on workers.

Big business and their political establishment will do everything in their power to protect their wealth and offload the costs of COVID-19 onto working people. They will use this Supreme Court decision to attempt to replace our corporate payroll tax proposal that would be paid by big business, with an income tax on workers.  The political establishment may attempt to justify new taxes on the overwhelming majority of working people by proposing tax credits, or limited exemptions for the very poorest people in Seattle. We need to be clear that most workers do not have accountants to help take advantage of every tax credit, and should not be asked to pay or file city income taxes in addition to all the regressive taxes they are already burdened with.

Washington State in general, and Seattle in particular, has the most regressive taxes in the nation, with poor and working-class people paying a far greater portion of their income in taxes than the rich. Further taxes on workers are not only unjust, they are also incapable of raising the revenue needed to address any of the crises in our society, from Coronavirus, to the housing affordability crisis, to the climate emergency. 

 As the economic devastation sparked by COVID-19 deepens, we will need to tax big business and the super-rich to fund lifesaving programs, provide emergency relief to workers who have lost their livelihoods, and ultimately to fund public jobs programs, building social housing and enacting the Green New Deal program. That is why I have proposed the Amazon Tax along with Councilmember Tammy J. Morales.

I support leaving no stone unturned to attempt to tax the rich, not workers, under this new legal framework, and will do everything in my power to prevent big business and their political establishment from replacing big business taxes with taxes on workers.

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