Court decision favoring new state income tax is betrayal of Washington voters, says Sen. Jeff Wilson


OLYMPIA — Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, ranking Republican on the Senate State Government Committee, offered the following comment on the new state income tax. The state Supreme Court announced its decision Friday, March 24 to uphold the tax on capital gains income. The tax was passed by legislative Democrats in 2021 and opposed by every Republican member of the Legislature.

“This is a political betrayal of the people of Washington state,” Wilson said. “Anyone who thinks this new income tax will stay small and will only hurt the rich hasn’t been paying attention to history. Big broad-based income taxes always start like this one, as we have seen on the national level and in state after state. Our Democratic colleagues did it again.

“The people of this state have voted no on an income tax 11 times since 1934. There is no other issue on which they have spoken so loudly, so profoundly and so frequently. The last time the question was put to them in a straightforward way was 2010, when 64 percent of Washington voters said no. But advocates of higher taxes and spending wouldn’t take no for an answer. They decided, if the people are going to keep saying no, let’s figure out a way not to ask them.

“That’s what happened here. They played a long game, trying to set up a case for the Washington state Supreme Court. They finally managed the trick in 2021, when COVID precautions barred the public from the Capitol and protests were kept at arms’ length. Even worse, just before the final vote, our colleagues included an ‘emergency clause’ that prevented the people from filing a referendum to overturn the tax.

“Now a group of justices, mostly appointed by a series of Democratic governors, has decided to uphold this new income tax. To do it, they had to stand on their heads and read the dictionary sideways. They decided this tax on income isn’t actually an income tax, but instead something else, an excise tax. This was extremely creative of them, because the Internal Revenue Service tells us it is an income tax, so do the 41 other states that tax capital gains income, and this new state income tax is figured as a percentage of federal income taxes. It walked like a duck, and it was a duck, all right.

“This wasn’t about the law. This was about power. Government did this to the people because it wanted to do it to the people. I hear people saying today that the court didn’t address the question of whether a general income tax is permissible. As if this should make anyone feel comfortable. I am convinced the court will be equally creative when the next shoe drops, and our friends in the Legislature decide to extend our new state income tax to the entire population.

“In politics, winning isn’t the only important thing. It is winning with honor. Winning this way was not honorable. The people’s will should have been respected. We need to remember, in this country, the people have a voice. And when they realize what their state government has done to them, I think they will want to speak. I hope they do, and loudly.”