A Seattle Income Tax? Anti-Trump groups want to take on legal challenges to get one

By: Casey McNerthney

Updated:

The Transit Riders Union, the Economic Opportunity Institute and other mostly democratic organizations are asking Seattle’s Mayor and City Council to “Trump proof” Seattle as a sanctuary city and impose an income tax on households that make more than $200,000.

“We recognize that such a measure will face legal challenges, and we embrace this bold strategy to pave the way to an equitable tax system, while setting an example for other cities struggling to fund vital public goods and services,” the organizations said in a March 1 letter to city leaders.

President Donald Trump said he wants to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray -- while adamant that Seattle will remain a sanctuary city -- estimated the city could lose $85 million in federal funding.

On KIRO 7 at 6 p.m., Essex Porter explains how much it could cost you, who would be exempt. 

Murray has hinted at having property owners to take another property tax hike if federal funding goes away.

As a sanctuary city, Seattle city employees and police are prohibited from asking immigration status during stops unless they have a reasonable suspicion the person is here illegally.

Related >> Mayor: Seattle could lose $85 million by remaining a sanctuary city

On the campaign trail, Trump referenced a 2007 Seattle homicide in his dislike for sanctuary cities.

On April 2, 2007, Rebecca Griego was killed by her ex-boyfriend on the University of Washington campus. Her killer, Jonathan Rowan, had an expired 90-day visa and was wanted by immigration authorities. Neither they nor Griego knew where to find him. 

Seattle police stopped him months before the fatal shooting, but did not know he was wanted by immigration authorities. Seattle officers are prohibited by law from asking if a subject is here legally without a reasonable suspicion. 

Speaking at Seattle University on January 11, Murray was asked about sanctuary cities and what plans he had if federal funding was stopped.

He initially didn’t answer the question, but after being called out by an audience member Murray spoke about increases in property taxes.

“If the federal government fails to come forward, if the state continues to be paralyzed maybe we’ll have to go back to the voters again,” he said.

Related >> Gov. Jay Inslee: 'Washington welcomes those seeking refuge'

On the “Trump Proof Seattle” website, the group acknowledges that Seattle having the authority to pass a tax based on income “is a legal grey area,” and that they don’t know how the courts will rule.

There’s a specific question about whether a Seattle income tax would be found unconstitutional.

“A statewide income tax was passed twice in the 1930s and overturned both times by the State Supreme Court,” the answer reads. “The court ruled that income is a form of property, and therefore subject to our state constitution's restrictions on property tax, which set a ceiling of 1% and permit only a flat tax. We expect that today's progressive State Supreme Court will reverse those rulings, based on legal developments in Washington and other states since the 1930s.”

Next Up: