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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washingtonians do not – and will not – have to pay personal income tax with initiative passed by the Legislature

The Senate convenes for a floor vote on in March in Olympia.  (Lauren Rendahl / The Spokesman-Review)

Out of three initiative votes on Monday, the measure to prohibit personal income tax seemingly passed through both chambers of the Washington Legislature the quickest.

“This initiative is designed to do one thing, which is to codify in law the state’s longstanding tradition of not having a tax based on personal income,” said Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett.

The initiative passed the Senate in a 38-11 vote and moved through the House on a 76-21 vote with all Spokane-area lawmakers, except Rep. Timm Ormsby, voting in support. Supermajority passage in the House and Senate means the initiative will become law without needing a vote on a ballot.

Washingtonians approved an initiative establishing an income tax in 1932, but it was promptly overturned by the state Supreme Court in 1933. All income tax proposals have failed since then, and Initiative 2111 will set law into stone, banning the state or any local governments from imposing one.

Ormsby, a Spokane lawmaker, said this initiative would “handcuff” the legislature’s ability to fund critical government services, which is why he doesn’t support it.

“It should be a tool that’s available to the Legislature,” he told The Spokesman-Review.

Although the initiative won’t impact any current statute, it will provide relief to those who have long stressed about dealing with an income tax, said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama.

“An income tax is extremely volatile,” he said. “Our budget’s will be up and down like you’ve never seen … but the citizens will be relieved with the passage of this that they will not be subject to an income tax.”

Washington voters have made it clear they don’t want an income tax. Since 1932, voters have rejected 10 ballot measures that would have allowed the state to adopt personal or corporate income tax proposals, according to the Secretary of State.

During last week’s public hearing on the initiative, opponents to the measure argued that it’s unnecessary and could impact the state’s continual efforts to repair their regressive tax code.

Rep. Chipalo Street, D-Seattle, agreed and said the Legislature’s focus should be on creating a more equitable tax code because lower-income families currently pay more in taxes than the wealthiest people in the state.

“We can do better with tax reforms that help everyday working Washingtonians, and we should consider all methods of doing so,” he said.

The initiative will become law in early June, 90 days after the session ends on Thursday.

Reporter Ellen Dennis contributed to this report.