Taxless in Seattle?
Washington State votes on an income-tax referendum.
Sep 27, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 02 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Opponents also worry about “taxation creep.” The initiative’s supporters assure Washingtonians that should the measure pass, income tax rates would remain at 5 percent and 9 percent and affect only those with incomes over $200,000. Yet, two years after the new tax took effect, the legislature would be empowered to expand the income tax by a simple majority vote. People look to Connecticut, the most recent state to impose an income tax, and see cause for concern. As the Wall Street Journal reported last month, since the Nutmeg State introduced an income tax in 1991, the top rate has climbed from 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent. The same thing could happen in Washington.
Some big names—with big bank accounts—are bankrolling the effort to impose the tax. Bill Gates Sr., the father of America’s richest man, is spearheading the initiative, and he’s already donated half a million dollars to the cause. The SEIU, with its deep pockets, is also backing the effort. But the other side has financial muscle as well: Seattle venture capitalists like Tom Alberg and Jon Runstad have written $25,000 checks to defeat the measure, and other business leaders are pledging “No On 1098” money as well.
The fight is already fierce. The most recent poll, taken in early August, found a dead heat, with both sides garnering 41 percent support. As money continues pouring into both camps, neither has an easy path to victory.
Ethan Epstein is a writer in Portland, Oregon.