The time is right for tax fairness and sensible spending priorities in Seattle

Seattle Times

By Christopher Rufo, March 9, 2018

Local residents are getting their first taste of property-tax hikes courtesy of Olympia this month and, in many cases, it’s shocking. According to The Seattle Times, a spokesman for the county assessor noted the 2018 boost is “the largest property-tax increase in King County in modern history.” In at least one community — Carnation — homeowners of a median-assessed-value property might see an astonishing 30 percent increase.

While middle-class Washingtonians are paying more taxes than ever, some politicians are laying the blame on the state’s “regressive” tax system. But, as is often the case, proponents of higher taxes cloak a more complete picture of state taxes and spending prioritization with emotional arguments about “inequality and fairness.” Recently, King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Assessor John Wilson joined the debate, pressing the case in a Seattle Times Op-Ed for tax reform, even calling a proposal for a new capital-gains tax as one of “several innovative ideas.”

Here are some of the hard facts that are currently missing from the “inequality and fairness” debate:

  • First, we are flush with revenue. According to the State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, tax inflows are predicted to grow to more than $48 billion from 2019-2021. That’s a $20 billion increase since the 2010 budget. At the same time, the city of Seattle’s revenues alone have gone up dramatically, driving a 26 percent increase in annual spending over five years.
  • Second, if the goal is to reduce the number of regressive taxes hitting Washingtonians, we could start with consideration of the sugar tax, cigarette tax, car tabs, parking taxes and gas taxes. Other than car tabs, no one in elected office has suggested we undertake this review. In fact, the Seattle City Council has been a champion of more regressive taxes, not fewer. Apparently, when it comes to their endless drive for more revenue, the issue of “tax fairness” is no longer critical to solve.

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