Yakima residents will get a chance to vote on a local income tax ban in November.
The Yakima City Council on Monday approved putting the question to voters in the Nov. 2 election. Mayor Patricia Byers proposed the ballot measure and first brought up the issue last year.
She said it’s the right thing to do, especially with local businesses trying to rebuild from the pandemic. It could have a positive effect on bringing businesses into the community, she said.
“What I really would like is for this to be in the hands of the voters,” she said. “I am strongly in favor of not the council making a decision on this, but the council making a decision to put this on the ballot to let our voters tell us what they want.”
Council member Kay Funk said it was a “false flag” issue designed to create chaos during the election. No one is talking about imposing an income tax, she said. She also said there wasn’t enough time to adequately vet the legal language in the charter change.
The vote was 4-2, with Byers, Jason White, Brad Hill and Holly Cousens voting to put the question to voters. Funk and Eliana Macias voted no. Soneya Lund was not present.
The measure drew attention from statewide groups. The Washington Policy Center, a conservative leaning think tank, advocated for the ban. The group’s Eastern Washington director, Chris Cargill, said voters in Spokane approved an income tax ban with more than 70% support in 2019. Granger, Battle Ground and Spokane Valley approved similar measures. The Union Gap City Council will consider a measure during its regular meeting on Aug. 9.
State Rep. Chris Corry, R-Yakima, spoke in favor of the ban Monday.
The proposal also drew the attention of the progressive group Invest in Washington Now, which encouraged people to send emails telling the council to stop wasting time and money on a “meaningless” gesture since no one is trying to pass an income tax in Yakima, the group said.
Volunteers are needed to help draft pro and con ballot language for the income tax charter change, along with a requirement that Yakima council members attend meetings, city officials said. A third charter amendment would clarify and correct charter sections, and make changes to align with state law. To help, contact the Yakima County Auditor’s Office elections division and ask for information about the pro and con committees.