WA’s Tax Code is Wildly Unfair. Here’s Why.

Wednesday’s meeting on our state’s upside-down tax code was very informative. We hope you were there to benefit. Steve Kelly and Lynn McDonald, representing All in For Washington, helped us better understand where our taxes come from, what they are used for, who pays them and who hardly does.

What an eye opener! Our state has the most regressive tax code in the nation — ranking 50th out of the 50 states — which means that those with the lowest income pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than do those having high incomes. In our state that’s 17% compared to less than 3%. Worst in the country! Definitely not a fair system.

Unlike neighboring states, our state government is funded by a combination of state and local sales tax, state and local property tax, and the business and occupations tax, mostly based on what we buy and what we own. Oregon and Idaho tax earnings, as well. We have a constitutional prohibition on taxing income and earnings.

People with lower incomes spend a greater percentage of their income on sales and business taxes than do people with higher incomes. So, those who have the least pay the most and those who have the most pay the least.

To make matters worse, the total amount of taxes we pay don’t supply enough revenue to properly fund the programs and obligations of the state. Education is underfunded with a court order deadline dead ahead. Mental health programs and institutions are underfunded with legal cases likely to lead to similar court mandates soon. Homelessness is at or near epidemic levels. If nothing changes, we are headed for serious fiscal problems.

Visit the All in For Washington website to find ways to support their efforts to reform the tax code and to learn more about the overall problem. You’ll find several short, clear and concise videos. They are very helpful.

And mark your calendars for our May 17th Indivisible meeting, because Steve and Lynn will return to give us tips on how we can talk to our state legislators about this issue. One of the best things about their presentation is their insistence that we tie taxes to our values, that we see taxes as investments in our future and in each other’s lives. Better information makes us better advocates for change.

Learn About WA’s Regressive and Unfair Tax System

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” At our next Indivisible Tacoma meeting, May 3rd at 6:30pm, Indivisible Tacoma will focus on the latter, not the former. Sometimes we’re not sure which is the more depressing topic, but like everything else it comes down to how we think about it. It makes sense to think about taxes as really being the dues we pay to enjoy the benefits of citizenship. Government is there to do the things we as individuals can’t do by ourselves, the schools, the roads, the infrastructure, protection from harms of all kinds and many other things we believe to be important. Our ‘dues’ pay the bills.

It stands to reason that the dues (taxes) we pay for all these things ought to be fairly distributed among all the citizens and organizations that reside in our state. Unfortunately, that is not the case here in Washington State. In fact, our state is among the most unfair in the land. 

This is not a partisan issue. It is, above all else, a fairness issue, and fairness crosses all political divides. We need to understand the problem before we can fix it. That’s the goal of Wednesday’s meeting. Steve Kelly from the All In For Washington Campaign will lead a workshop touching on the facts, the problems, and you will get a chance to weigh in on some possible solutions to the tax code mess in our state.

Come join in. This is a good place for us to start.