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Originally published April 2, 2009 at 4:26 PM | Page modified April 2, 2009 at 8:31 PM

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Gasp! Another try at an income tax

State Sen. Lisa Brown's proposal for an income tax will be rejected by voters.

STATE Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, is reaching for fairy dust in her proposal for a state income tax. It's not going to happen.

A graduated income tax would require an amendment to the state constitution, meaning a two-thirds vote of both legislative houses and a majority approval of the voters.

Even if a 1-percent, flat-rate tax would be constitutional, it would still require approval by voters, who are the very people expected to pay it. Voters have rejected income taxes several times before by landslide margins, and in a time of job cuts and economic worry, would almost certainly do so again.

Advocates have long promoted an income tax as a way to tax fairly, and the people have long suspected that the real motive was to tax more. Here the cynics are admitted to be right. The obvious motive of this proposal is to raise more money for the state.

Certainly, the state is having a money problem. But people who have lost their jobs or taken deep losses in their retirement investments also have money problems. Their interest is in a quick and vigorous business recovery, which is made less likely by new taxes.

Some advocates say they would tax only the high earners. But it doesn't raise enough money: a 1-percent tax on joint incomes above $1 million would raise less than one-half of 1 percent of state revenues. The state makes its big money in taxing the broad mass of people, which is also the broad mass of voters.

Sen. Brown is said to be interested in being elected governor some day. She might recall the last such candidate who championed an income tax. It was Ron Sims, who was beaten in the Democratic primary by Christine Gregoire.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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