Initiative 1 seeks to enact a 1.5 percent tax on Olympia household incomes over $200,000 a year. It would use that money for a worthy cause: a free year of community college for city high school graduates and GED earners.
But the measure is likely outside a city’s authority and costly to Olympia because it will end up in court — the real goal of its original backers in Seattle, including the Economic Opportunity Institute. Such a tax appears clearly illegal for a city to impose.
The question is on the ballot largely because backers of an income tax want a test case on the constitutionality of a progressive income tax in Washington. Past Supreme Court rulings have rejected such a tax, although some legal experts think the current court could interpret the issue differently.
If Olympia voters approve Initiative 1, which a poll for proponents suggests can happen, the city government would be stuck with legal bills to defend it — unless I-1 backers pony up, which is far from a sure thing.
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This — and its heavy dependence on funding from out-of-city sources — are among the reasons this measure has drawn our opposition.
An income tax may be a good idea for Washington and so might a tuition free year at a community college. This isn’t the way to do it. Reject this measure.