Income tax on rich would hurt this state

It could drive the wealthy out of Washington and, over time, the tax could be imposed on middle-income earners.

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A state income tax -- even if it's directed at only the rich -- isn't likely to be approved by the people.

Nor should it be.

We fear, as we believe many Washingtonians do, that once an income tax is in place it will eventually be imposed on everyone. And, despite claims likely to be made to the contrary, the sales-tax rate won't be any lower.

Nevertheless, another effort to impose a statewide income tax is under way. It was reported last week voters could be asked in November to approve Initiative 1077, which would impose an income tax on couples earning more than $400,000 a year and individuals earning $200,000.

The group, which includes Bill Gates Sr., contends taxing the wealthy would cut the state property tax by 20 percent, end the business-and-occupation tax for small businesses while raising $1 billion per year.

Sandeep Kaushik, an I-1077 spokesman, told The Seattle Times he expects strong support and financial backing.

"Over the next few weeks you'll see a broad coalition emerge in support of this. There's been a lot of interest from a lot of different organizations," Kaushik said.

Perhaps.

But, again, our gut feeling is that the majority of Washingtonians -- whether earning $14,000 a year or $40,000 or $400,000 -- aren't going to bite.

The tax imposed on the rich today could easily be a tax on the middle class tomorrow. Promises made can too easily be ignored by future legislators.

Even if this income tax would tax only the rich, we would still have concerns.

We don't like the class politics. The message being sent with a wink and a nod is that the income tax is directed at the filthy rich (them) while giving a tax break to good, hard-working people (us).

As we've said before, taxing the rich and tossing a penny to the poor (metaphorically speaking) isn't the answer.

We agree with state Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He said imposing an income tax could hurt the state's economy as it drives some wealthy people out of the state.

"The only thing that's going to get us out of this recession are people with a few bucks making investments in the state of Washington," he said. "... The last thing you want to do is create an environment where you are going to discourage those types of people from wanting to stay in Washington and make investments here."

An income tax on the rich is, simply put, a poor idea.

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