Upcoming hearing on income tax plan underscores need for limits on 2021 Legislature, Ericksen says

Ericksen resolution Monday would head off Democrats’ income-tax drive before it can begin

  • Governor’s income tax plan gets hearing Thursday, kicking off tax campaign
  • Public will be kept at distance due to COVID restrictions
  • Underscores urgency of limiting topics for 2021 session

OLYMPIA – Legislative Democrats will formally kick off their effort to pass an income tax next week, and Sen. Doug Ericksen hopes to head it off with a resolution that would limit the topics of debate during the 2021 legislative session.

Committee agendas released late this week show Senate Democrats are planning a hearing Thursday on Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal for a new income tax. The governor is proposing an income tax on capital gains that could easily be expanded into a general income tax if it survives court challenges.

Ericksen, R-Ferndale, will advance a resolution Monday, the opening day of the 2021 legislative session, to limit this year’s debates to COVID relief and “must-do” legislation. Lawmakers shouldn’t consider proposals like the income tax when the public can’t fully weigh in, Ericksen maintains. Public participation in this year’s session will be sharply restricted by COVID precautions.

“Our worst fears are coming true as the governor uses the cloak of COVID to promote an income tax, a bad idea the people of this state have rejected time and again. This new tax will make it all the harder for our economy to rebound as COVID eases, and will discourage new investment in our state. More than ever, it is clear that we need to pass SCR 8400 and force the Legislature to focus on COVID-19 relief.”

For technical reasons, Ericksen’s measure would require adjournment of the 2021 regular session, and immediately reconvene the Legislature for a special session. This would enable lawmakers to limit the topics that can be considered. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8400 would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate.

“It’s bad enough to be promoting an idea that Washington voters already have rejected ten times,” Ericksen said. “But to do it at a time like this is simply tone-deaf. Thousands of jobs have been lost for good, and people are hurting. Rather than taking advantage of the situation to pass a tax the people don’t want, we should have compassion for them.”

Although the governor has touted his income tax as a COVID relief measure, the tax would be unlikely to generate any tax collections while COVID remains an issue. Lengthy court challenges can be expected that would delay implementation until after the virus is beaten. Even if courts give a green light, state tax officials say another year of preparation will be required before the new income tax can be imposed.

The governor’s income tax plan is set for a hearing Thursday at 4 p.m. before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.