January 06, 2007

Washington: Open Minds Need Not Apply

Washington State's tax system has attracted its share of critics--and they sing the same tune with astonishing regularly. Whether it's the state legislature's Gates Commission from a few year back, or recent gubernatorial candidate Ron Sims, or (ahem) the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, everyone keeps coming back to the fact that Washington is one of only seven states that gets by without any kind of an income tax. Lacking an income tax, lawmakers are forced to rely extra heavily on the remaining taxes, with high (and unpopular) sales taxes, property taxes, and business taxes. It's a simple problem-- with a simple solution: enact an income tax, & maybe use some of the revenues to cut sales and property and business taxes.

In this context, you like to see a state lawmaker who's not afraid to suggest this simple solution. And Rep. Jim McIntire is just that guy-- all the more heartwarming given that he's been running the House Finance Committee. The political will may not be there to enact an income tax-- but at least someone in a position of power has the guts to beat this drum.

But not anymore. The Olympian reports that McIntire has lost his chairmanship of the committee for the upcoming legislative session.-- and that his support for an income tax is a big reason why:
"I think it was clear that the leadership wanted something different," McIntire said late Tuesday, acknowledging that his views on the income tax might have put his caucus in a tough spot politically.
McIntire comes across quite graciously in the article, especially when you consider that he appears to have lost his leadership job not because of any inadequacies in his job performance but because of his beliefs about tax fairness.

This isn't the end for progressive tax reform in Washington State. Far from it, says Rep. Brendam Williams:
"There are any number of us willing to talk about the fundamental need to talk about structural tax reform," Williams said. "I don't think the need for fundamental tax reform is off the table. We've just chosen a new leader."
But it's a shame that House Democrats appear to have chosen their new leader because the old one was too forceful in his belief that an income tax could help fix Washington's fiscal policy mess. A willingness to leave all options on the table shouldn't disqualify you from being a policymaker.


Post a Comment

<< Home