Seattle GOP Calls for 'Civil Disobedience' in Response to 'Tax on Rich' Measures

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant / Getty Images
July 18, 2017

Republicans in Washington state are calling for "civil disobedience" in response to a recently passed income tax measure targeting high-income earners living in the city of Seattle.

The Washington State Republican Party is encouraging Seattle residents to refuse paying the newly passed income tax on the grounds that the tax is illegal, Fox News reported Tuesday.

The tax measure would require residents to pay a 2.25 percent tax if they are a single filer and make more than $250,000 annually, or if they file jointly and make more than $500,000.

The tax was passed by the Seattle City Council but critics and analysts say it was passed in defiance of state law.

"This law is unconstitutional, illegal, and against the voter’s will expressed nine times at the ballot box and it deserves nothing less than civil disobedience – that is, refusal to comply, file or pay," the Washington State Republican Party said in a written statement.

The state of Washington imposes strict limits on taxes, prohibits taxes on net income and requires cities to get permission to tax residents. It is one of seven states in the country that does not have a personal income tax.

Supporters of the tax reform measure argue that "it’s time for the rich to pay their fair share."

 Lawmakers who passed the measure call it "a new formula for fairness."

"Our goal is to replace our regressive tax system with a new formula for fairness while ensuring Seattle stands up to President Trump’s austere budget that cuts transportation, affordable housing, healthcare and social services," said outgoing Democratic Mayor Ed Murray.

Seattle Coucilmember Kshama Sawant, a self-identifying socialist, has been an outspoken supporter of the measure. After the bill was signed, Sawant asked supporters, "If we need to pack the courts, will you be there with me?"

The local lawmaker shared her speech at the vote on Twitter, writing, "#Seattle Taxes the Rich! Onward to housing justice & #RentControl!"

Sawant further discussed her views on the measure's merits on Free Speech TV, the self-described "alternative to television networks owned by billionaires, governments and corporations."

But not everyone is onboard the tax train, and critics have joined the state Republicans to speak out against the bill.

"The city’s decision to pass a bill that violates state law and supreme court precedents teaches the public that it is acceptable to ignore the law if it is to your advantage," the Washington Policy Center (WPC) said in a statement.

"The violation is so obvious that city leaders know they are inviting a lawsuit, as citizens seek to defend their rights under state law and the state constitution," it said.

Dann Smith, president of WPC and a lifelong Seattle resident, said that it’s "frustrating to see the Seattle City Council choose to waste taxpayer dollars on lawsuits for an income tax that is not needed."

The Freedom Foundation said it is prepared to challenge the measure in court. The conservative think tank argued that the tax is a slippery slope and could open the door to additional taxes in the future.

"No matter who starts out paying it, everyone will eventually suffer," said CEO Tom McCabe in a statement.

The city estimates the new tax would raise $140 million a year and cost between $10 million and $13 million to set up, plus an additional $6 million a year to enforce.