Tax structure, education funding top concerns during 32nd District Town Hall

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State Sen. Maralyn Chase speaks at a town hall in Mountlake Terrace on Saturday.

State Sen. Maralyn Chase told her 32nd Legislative District constituents during a Saturday Town Hall meeting that the best way to fix the state’s budget is to overhaul its tax system.

To do that, she said, citizens across the state need to know about its issues.

She began that process by distributing a series of charts to the town hall’s attendees. One showed the percentage of a household’s income that is paid in taxes, broken down by income levels. According to that chart, using a study from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, those who make $21,000 or less in Washington state pay 16.8 percent of their income in taxes. Families making $507,000 or more, by contrast, pay about 2.4 percent of their household income in taxes.

Chase distributed this chart on Saturday, showing what percentage of income households pay in taxes based on their total income.

The chart is compared to similar charts from Oregon, California and Idaho, where the highest and lowest income levels pay nearly the same percentage of their income. The highest income levels pay approximately 2 percent less than the lowest in all three states.

“This tax structure doesn’t generate enough revenue,” Chase said. “We need to take a fundamental deep dive into how we collect taxes.”

She also distributed a county map of Washington, showing how much money the state spends in any particular county compared to the tax money raised in that county. Six counties pay more than they receive, including King and Skagit counties, according to the chart. San Juan county received the least, at 54 cents cents per dollar. Stevens County received the most, at $1.95 per dollar.

Snohomish County received $1.04 per dollar, which would be less than average, according to the chart.

Chase said she plans to distribute both of these charts across the state.

“When I say I’m going to put these charts out statewide, I am,” she said. “People need to know what our tax system is. We’re paying 10 percent in sales tax, for God’s sake. We have to have a reduction in sales tax. We can’t have lower-income people paying 16 percent of their total income in tax.”

Chase said informing the state’s population about the current tax system may help a tax reform pass in the future, though she thinks putting forward a bill for an income tax right now wouldn’t make it far through the Legislature.

She also told constituents she would like to see the state’s B&O go away.

“You can’t put a $15 minimum wage on small businesses with this horrible B&O tax,” Chase said. “Strong businesses hire people.”

She said the current tax structure is contributing to problems balancing the budget. Right now, the state Legislature is struggling to fully fund basic education, as is required by the state constitution. Chase said she does not support cutting funding to programs providing health care, public safety or other basic state services to fund education.

But, she said, it’s clear that education needs additional funding. In her opinion, the effort needs to benefit public schools rather than privatizing schools.

“Public education works,” she said. “When they say they want good education, you tell them to fund the public schools.”

She would like to see school administrators, superintendents and teachers in Olympia helping legislators determine how much money the public school system needs to function properly. Then, the legislators can focus on securing the funding.

The way to get the funding, she said, is not through more of the same sorts of taxes Washington residents already pay.

“I will not vote for another regressive tax,” Chase said. “I will not.”

The 32nd Legislative District covers part of Edmonds and Lynnwood, as well as a portion of Mountlake Terrace west of I-5. To find your legislative district, click here.

–By Natalie Covate

16 COMMENTS

  1. “those who make $21,000 or less in Washington state pay 16.8 percent of their income in taxes. Families making $507,000 or more, by contrast, pay about 2.4 percent of their household income in taxes.”

    I also pay a higher percentage of earnings on a loaf of bread than someone who makes $500,000. Does that mean that I should pay less for my food or the higher earner should pay more? What is the true purpose of regressive tax argument? Are we blaming not properly funding education on not collecting enough taxes or is it because the legislature spends too much on other things and not properly budgeting?

  2. I would like to see that explanation as well. These numbers make no sense.

    I have asked before and no one steps up to provide any facts to back it up. Just general statements.

    • I’ve looked at the bar graphs more closely and the small print below the name of each state says that the figures represent “shares of family income for non-elderly taxpayers” – what exactly that means I do not know. The note below the graphs in italics has to be incorrect.

  3. Thank you for looking. I saw that also,
    no idea what that means.

    Perhaps, one of the legislators using this data for their argument can explain.

  4. Those salivating for Washington State Income Tax should have experienced the egregious runaway tax structure in California…

    It basically confiscates the productivity of the middle class. Politicians always start out with the promise of only taxing the rich and then they move down the income scale quickly…addicted to the tax dollars and always wanting more from the captive taxpayer. The middle income taxpayer is the one who gets it …in the end..always under the guise of better societal outcomes!

    Is this what we want in Washington? Be careful…once the politician has their foot in the State Income Tax door, there is NO return.

  5. Evan a 5th grader can read the 2017 irs tax table, $470,701+ income is taxed at 39.6 %, and don’t forget our 2017 snohomish county tax bill for our homes in Edmonds. Almost 1.1% of it’s value. Typical spin by our elected officials to tax the hard working 40 hour+ a week people who saved their money to not become a burden on society.
    Fred Gouge

  6. Right on Fred! Couple that with the school district portion on the tax statement, st3, car tab ridiculous formula, and sales tax increase one has elected officials out of touch people at all income levels.

    Saw that house being towed on the sound in MEN and thought it might be a great idea to put the house on a barge and keep it moving. Sad attempt at humor.

    Have a great day!

  7. FWIW, the charts above are based only on Washington State and local taxes (a little quick google searching goes a long way). They represent how out of whack the tax structure is in this state–as a percentage of total income, lower income individuals pay a higher percentage of their income on state and local taxes than higher income individuals. This is an indisputable fact. The bottom line is the state of Washington has a very well-documented position in the United States–the dubious “honor” of having the most regressive tax structure in the country. It would be nice if that could be evened out a little with some serious tax reform that would more equitably distribute the tax burden across all wage levels, as you see in the charts for California, Oregon, and Idaho. I believe that is what Ms. Chase is advocating with her statement at the end of the article.

    • I agree. Her advertisement is “let’s make taxes ‘fairer’ for the low/middle income folks. But, what she really wants is to raise taxes to pay for things that the legislature has historically not properly budget for. It will make their job so much easier if they don’t have to make hard decisions prioritize and to stay within their means by devising a way to get more money from taxpayers.

  8. Friends, sorry I haven’t had time to join in this vigorous discussion earlier.

    You will find the source of the tax regressivity at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in their reports. “Who Pays?” http://www.itep.org

    WAshington State Dept. of Revenue has interesting reports on their web site. Click on Publications on the left side of the screen. I recommend reading the study “2016 Tax Exemption Study”. The entire report is 700 pages but it is summarized in the Introduction and Summary of Findings @ 9 pages with plenty of pictures.

    The Tax base in 2015 was about $75 billion. the Legislature has given about $40 billion in tax expenditures but only collected about $35 billion.

    There are two (2) categories of exemptions that represent $50.7 billion: the property tax exemption on intangibles. (Taxes that the State Constitution intended to support schools but the Legislature exempted in 1997). The other exemption is a sales and use tax exemption on personal and professional services.
    Btw. Intangibles are things like stocks and bonds, royalties, etc. which are the fastest growing component of personal income.

    I would be happy to attend one of your meetings if you would like a deeper dive into this subject.

    • Thank for the link to ITEP. It took me a while, but I enjoyed reading both report summaries and looking at the data. I don’t disagree that, if you have to tax, the impact on every income group should be considered. However, the banner of “fairness” in taxation that these reports support is being used as a smoke screen for the legislators (regardless of political affiliation) to avoid properly budgeting within their means. Years of spending on programs of lower priority, government staffing bloat (including school district staffs), exemptions for one special interest or another, and the lack of self-discipline to cut pet or parochial programs led to underfunding of mandatory programs. To “fix” it, the legislature looks for new ways to tax more.

      I ask that you first look at ways to conserve revenues and stay within a budget like the households you are taxing must do. If, however, the legislature prevails in getting an income tax, I’d also ask that you not ignore the total tax obligation (as the ITEP report does) since the upper 50% income brackets pay over 97% of all federal income taxes.

  9. Btw. The $40 billion is from active tax categories that at least some people are still paying.

    The “intangibles” were removed from the tax base and the sales tax on professional services have not yet made it to the tax base.

  10. To reiterate, Be careful…once the politician has their foot in the State Income Tax door, there is NO return. Witness California!

    Progressive politicians never met a tax or fee they did not like!

  11. And yet… according to Forbes, California has the third best economy in the US.

    (Comment originally posted in the wrong spot.))

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