Ferguson urged by legislator to defend statewide ban on taxing net income

Today Washington State Senator Steve O’Ban sent a letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson urging him to defend the state law prohibiting taxes on net income, after a Court of Appeals invalidated the law on Monday.

The court ruling tossed the law after finding that it had been unconstitutionally enacted as part of a larger bill that violated the state Constitution’s “single subject” rule.

O’Ban’s letter notes that Ferguson refused to intervene to defend the law two years ago when asked by legislators to do so, in an earlier stage of the court case when the city and its co-defendant, the Economic Opportunity Institute, first raised the argument that the law had been improperly enacted. He argues that it’s the Attorney General’s duty to defend the state’s laws — particularly those that have been in place for 35 years.

His letter asks the Attorney General to respond by August 1, and says that if Ferguson again refuses to defend the law, “we reserve the right to seek remedial recourse” — though it’s unclear what such recourse might be.

In invalidating the income tax law, the appeal court overturned a King County Superior Court judge’s finding that the law was properly enacted and did not violate the “single subject” rule.  However, the City of Seattle has already indicated that it intends to ask the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling (and the plaintiffs will likely do so as well), so it’s unlikely that we’ve heard the final word regardless of whether Ferguson decides to get involved.