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Originally published June 30, 2010 at 3:46 PM | Page modified June 30, 2010 at 6:01 PM

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Initiative 1098 will hamper efforts to create jobs

The Seattle Times editorial board says the state income tax proposed by Initiative 1098 will be imposed on a wide group of citizens and will impair the creation of jobs.

ON Thursday, the sponsors of the state income-tax measure, Initiative 1098, are set to turn in their signatures. What were the signers thinking?

Most likely, they were thinking they would not have to pay it. It is advertised as a tax drawing blood from top earners only, and certified safe for the other 97 percent.

But in politics, nothing is safe. Especially not a new tax.

Under the state constitution, after two years the Legislature can change a voter-approved initiative by simple majority.

Look at Initiative 960, which required a two-thirds majority for the Legislature to raise taxes. It went into effect Dec. 6, 2007, which meant that on Dec. 6, 2009, the Legislature could suspend it by a simple majority. Already it has done so, using a simple majority to raise taxes by $800 million.

Legislators have not dared to pass an income tax because four times the people of Washington have voted against such taxes, and legislators are afraid of losing their seats. But if the people vote for such a tax, all bets are off.

The state's four-year budget outlook shows a deficit of more than $8 billion in the biennium after next. That is a huge gap, and I-1098 will give legislators a way to fill it. As written, it will not raise anything like $8 billion, but if the Legislature decides to impose it on more people — a lot more people — it could squeeze that kind of money from taxpayers.

The $8 billion deficit is a forecast only. The gap could be smaller if the state follows policies that encourage venture investors, business owners and corporate managers.

These are the people who create jobs. Unfortunately, they are also the people in the bull's eye of the proposed income tax. The tax imposed by I-1098 will leave them with less money to invest and less confidence in investing it. It will slow Washington's recovery and keep people out of work — no doubt many of the same people who signed the petitions submitted to the Secretary of State's Office Thursday morning.

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