The state Legislature adjourned in April and this is an off election year, meaning the only races for House or Senate seats in November will be to fill a few vacancies. Control of the Legislature is not up for grabs.
Yet, politicking will be taking place through the summer and into the fall as majority Democrats see an opportunity to finally get a capital-gains tax approved.
A capital-gains tax is an income tax, which is simply not allowed under the state constitution.
Yes, the way it has been proposed it would impact few Washingtonians as it targets those with higher incomes. The earnestness of the argument does not change the fact this is a constitutional issue. A capital-gains tax is a tax on money that has been earned.
Our biggest concern is that a narrow capital-gains tax passed next year could morph into a full-blown income tax in the future that many, if not most, Washingtonians would have to pay. If this were to succeed it would be circumventing the state constitution.
Those who want to enact a capital-gains tax should work to change the constitution.
The political reality in Washington state is that it’s near impossible to enact. Voters have been asked to approve an income tax 10 times and it always fails. Another vote to change the constitution, which would be required after a supermajority vote of both houses of the Legislature, likely won’t be any different.
But those pushing for a capital-gains tax disagree that it is an income tax want and they want to impose it only through legislative action.
A resignation in the state Senate of a Democrat opposed to the capital-gains tax is seen by progressive Democratic lawmakers a clearer path to the tax, according to reporting by Jerry Cornfield, the political reporter for The Herald of Everett.
Sen. Guy Palumbo’s seat is being sought by Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, who has not been adverse to the capital-gains tax during his time in the House.
“If he gets the gig — and he’s a favorite — it changes the equation,” Cornfield wrote.
In addition, the capital-gains tax could become a big issue in a few special legislative elections on the November ballot. Republicans will use their opposition to capital gains to take votes from Democrats in traditional Democratic districts.
In the end, even if a capital-gains tax is approved by lawmakers, we are confident the courts will strike it down as unconstitutional.
Still, the public uproar and political discord this will cause isn’t good for Washington state.
Democrats need to move on and forget about imposing a capital-gains tax without first addressing the obvious constitutional issue.