income tax

Justin Steyer / KPLU

If you’re poor and you live in Washington state, you wind up forking over almost 17 percent of your income in state and local taxes. That’s according to a recent report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

But if you live in, say, Boise or Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, state and local taxes only eat up 8.5 percent of your income.

Seattle Daily Times

Editor's Note: We're taking a closer look at Washington's tax system through a week-long series. This is the first installment of “Where’s the Dough? On the Hunt for Washington’s Missing Tax Dollars."

Washington state’s tax system has long been heaped with insults. Lately, it’s been called a jalopy, a Ford Pinto and the worst in the country.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, says Washington's tax system is the most regressive in the nation. That’s because with our state’s heavy reliance on sales tax and lack of an income tax, the poorest 20 percent of residents pay 16.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest pay 2.4 percent.

AP photo.

A self-described 'poor man' from Spokane tells us he wouldn't think of voting for I-1098, the income tax measure, because "the rich are blessed."  KPLU's Paula Wissel asks "Who's rich and who's not?" in our latest report on Election 2010.  The initiative aims to tax the wealthiest 1.2% in the state. That's a quantifiable definition of 'rich.'  But the conversation also invites a qualitative definition to a perhaps undefinable question.