Washington state is one of the few states that does not have an income tax. And the state's voters have made clear — 10 times — they don't want an income tax.
That, however, has not stopped the city of Seattle from imposing an income tax on its wealthy residents in an effort to expand its revenues.
On Monday, the Washington state Court of Appeals struck down Seattle's 2.25 percent income tax for individuals making at least $250,000 and $500,000 or more for married couples that it adopted in 2017.
But the court's ruling is as mushy as a week-old banana.
A King County Superior Court judge earlier killed Seattle's income tax before it was collected. The judge ruled the tax violated the state Legislature's 1984 ban on Washington cities taxing net income.
The Appeals Court found that the Legislature ban is void because it was included in a piece of legislation with multiple subjects, which is not allowable. Essentially, the law is not the law because of technicality.
Given that, the court said Seattle could impose its tax except that — and here is where it gets squishy — the tax itself is unconstitutional because it is not applied equally to all. The court said that income is property and property must be taxed uniformly. Is essence, a tax only on the wealthy doesn't cut the mustard.
This matters because it opens the door for cities across the state to impose local income taxes, which would seem to contradict the constitution's ban on an income tax.
This case is undoubtedly heading to the state Supreme Court.
The state constitution is clear that the state can't impose an income tax. Implied in that is that such a tax can't be enacted within the state by local governments, either counties or cities. The Legislature imposed the ban in 1984 to ensure there is no misunderstanding on the legality of an income tax at any level.
While the Court of Appeals might well be correct that the 1984 law was imposed correctly, it is nevertheless clear that the Legislature intended to ban city-imposed income tax.
In addition, the voters of Washington have voted 10 times since 1960 not to allow an income tax. Six of those votes were specifically focused on the state constitution.
Seattle's city government is out of step on this issue.
If the state Supreme Court doesn't ultimately put an end to this effort to let cities (and, perhaps, counties) impose income taxes, the Legislature needs to fix the flaws in its 1984 effort.