Opinion

Time for real tax reform: Vote yes on Initiative 1098

More than a decade after Tim Eyman qualified his first anti-public services initiative to the ballot, it appears that voters are finally going to get the chance to vote for tax reform instead of tax cuts.

A coalition of progressive public interest groups, led by William Gates Sr., is pushing ahead with an initiative that would create an income tax on high-earners. The initiative is built around two closely related and important ideas: Making our tax system fairer for middle and low income families while simultaneously strengthening our common wealth.

Initiative 1098 is sorely needed. Today, taxes fall most heavily upon those who have the least, while those who have the most hardly pay anything. The numbers are startling: According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, families in the lowest income bracket pay 17.3% of their income in state and local taxes. That’s nearly a fifth. But the top one percent - which encompasses the millionaires and the billionaires - only pay 2.9%.

Our tax system is grossly unfair because our primary source of revenue is consumption taxes, which are inherently regressive because they don’t take into account ability to pay.

Consider the following scenario: Two men are at a hardware store somewhere in the Evergreen State buying supplies for their household. The first is an unemployed father who is struggling to pay the mortgage, provide for his family, and avoid foreclosure. The second man is an investment fund manager with a seven figure income who owns not one, but two houses, plus a luxury yacht.

It just so happens that these two men happen to be buying the same things: A new filter for their refrigerator and some lumber. When they check out, they pay the same sales tax. To the investment manager, that sales tax is nothing, because dollars are pennies to him. But for the unemployed father, every dollar is like 10 dollars, or 20. That sales tax hurts, though it would hurt less if his property tax bill wasn’t due in a few days.

The father doesn’t complain ... he’s a patriot who knows that he has his fellow taxpayers to thank for his unemployment benefits, the park he takes his children to, and the library where he spends his time looking for work. But he wonders why he has to pay taxes when he doesn’t have a job.

This is the imbalance that Initiative 1098 seeks to correct. If it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters, an income tax

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