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Olympia may vote to become the first city in Washington to have an income tax

caption: The Washington state Capitol in Olympia.
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The Washington state Capitol in Olympia.
Flickr Photo/amishrobot (CC-BY-NC-ND)

A group of citizens in Olympia want the city to be the first in Washington to have an income tax. Their initiative could be on the November ballot.

As the election nears, leaders in Olympia’s city hall are fighting the measure.

The initiative would impose a 1.5 percent tax on any household income over $200,000. The money would help high school graduates go on to higher education.

The sponsors turned in enough petition signatures last week to get the initiative authorized.

That puts city leaders -- who don't support it -- in a sticky situation. Under Olympia law, the City Council now either has to enforce the measure or send it on to voters.

Mayor pro tem Nathaniel Jones said the council will vote Tuesday on what path to take.

Jones: "And we can't modify it, we can't adjust it, we really don't want to adopt it so we must send it to the voters. And we are concerned about the language in it, we think that it really doesn't stand a legal chance."

They worry the city might not have the legal authority to adopt an income tax, since the state has never approved one. Another concern is over enforcement, because residents would likely need to self-report if their income was over $200,000.

Jones said the only way to stop the income tax measure is if a judge rules it unlawful. He said the city plans to request a judicial decision from the Thurston County Superior Court.

The council members did have another idea: proposing their own tax on the ballot. They dropped that plan last week.

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