Washington voters have rejected personal income-tax-related measures at the statewide ballot several times over the past eight decades. Now voters in the state capital will decide whether to approve an income tax on the city’s highest earners, even as the legality of the measure remains in question.
Initiative 1 seeks a 1.5 percent tax on household income in excess of $200,000 for residents of Olympia, a city of about 50,000 people. The measure seeks to raise an estimated $3 million a year for a public college tuition fund that would give all Olympia public high-school graduates and GED recipients tuition for at least the first year of community or technical college, or the equivalent amount — about $4,000 — for in-state public university tuition.
“It puts the spotlight on the finances of education,” said Democratic state Sen. Sam Hunt of Olympia, a supporter of the measure. “Obviously, it’s controversial. But I think at some point people need to step forward and say what we’re doing isn’t working, and we need to find better solutions. And this is one step toward finding a better solution.”
Opponents of the measure argue that Seattle activists are focused solely on teeing up a test case for the state Supreme Court, and are using a tax on the residents of Olympia to accomplish that goal.