• Dow Constantine wants to fix unfair Washington taxes

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    King County Executive Dow Constantine says Washington taxes are unfair and he wants to fix them.

    “Now, what is fair depends on where you stand, obviously, but I would submit this: That fairness comes down to your ability to pay,” Constantine recently said at an event for the Sound Cities Association.”

    “It’s not fair to expect those with limited means to pay a larger percent of the little they have to support our collective roads, and police, and transit that are essential for all of us, for a prosperous economy and a strong community,” he said.

    The Legislature solved the statewide school funding shortfall by handing the bill to King County from King County Executive on Vimeo.

    >> RELATED: Seattle takes step toward income tax

    Constantine was recently the keynote speaker at an event for the Sound Cities Association. Here, he laid out his argument that Washington taxes are not being collected fairly. In short, families at the lowest end of the income ladder pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than those earning at the highest end. Also, households in a city like Seattle are paying much more than households elsewhere.

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    Constantine made this example:

    It was mentioned that I live in West Seattle. My folks live in the house in which I was raised. It’s a modest house owned by two long-retired public school teachers. They get their pension; they get their Social Security. And the Legislature just handed them a big property tax increase on this little house in which I was raised.

     

    They are going to be paying more for schools statewide, but my mom’s brother and his wife – my aunt and uncle – live down in Centralia. They are also long-retired public school teachers. They also live in a modest house they’ve owned for a long time.

     

    Their school district is going to get subsidized by my parents and they are very likely going to get a tax cut. Even though they have the exact same income as my parents. That is clearly not fair.

    You can see the data he presented here. His speech comes as Seattle is championing an effort for an income tax; the city plans to take its case all the way to the state Supreme Court.

    Unfair Washington taxes
    Constantine’s speech, however, was short on specific solutions to the issues around Washington taxes. He did point out examples of “things that could be different.” He also said “no one is actively considering” an income tax (someone might want to point him to Seattle’s Supreme Court case).

    Constantine suggested:

    • Recast the sales tax: Apply it to more types of sales, but at a lower rate. This is also done in Hawaii, New Mexico, and both North and South Dakota.
    • Tax capital gains — income that people don’t earn — as a way to offset property taxes.
    • Allow governments to tax app downloads (Constantine admits that the local tech industry might not be in favor of this).
    • Fix “our goofy B&O tax”: The state should tax based on value added — on each stage of production — which would ultimately be paid by the end user. Businesses are currently taxed on gross receipts whether or not they make money, Constantine notes.
    • Property tax relief for seniors, veterans and other homeowners based on income.

     

    Constantine also expanded on what taxes should primarily be used for:

    • Ensure all children get a decent education and job training that allows them to do better than their parents.
    • Build transit and a power grid for a modern economy.
    • Provide access to health care for all.
    • “And so much more.”
       

    Here's an example of inequity in our current tax system from King County Executive on Vimeo.

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