Danny Westneat apparently thinks of himself as a lone voice of reason in the wilderness, and so when the same Seattle Human Services Coalition report that came across everybody else's desk came across his desk, he asks: "Is the city even aware of these problems? I would hope so, but who really knows."
Um... yeah, Danny. That's why SHSC surveyed its members in the first place, several of whom sit on the mayor's Income Inequality Advisory Committee. I first mentioned that the committee was considering accommodations for nonprofits a month ago, and I only mentioned the issue because it had been raised to me by members of the committee. So yeah. The city is aware of these problems.
(As a tangent, let me just say that Westneat mentioning the report's "delicate and blandly worded conclusion" while ignoring the firmly worded opening statement—"SHSC fully supports raising the minimum wage ... to $15/hr"—is disappointing.)
As for how to pay a living wage to all those college educated social workers currently earning only $12.75? Yeah, raise taxes. Of course, raise taxes! We underfund human services to the point where we impoverish those serving the poor. The status quo is indefensible.
As for which tax to raise, here's an idea I first pitched nearly a decade ago, when the Sonics were first threatening to leave the city. A Jock Tax: an income tax on the salaries earned by athletes during their “duty days” in the city.
At least twenty other states already levy just such a “jock tax”… a tax our own Sonics, Mariners and Seahawks players already pay on nearly every away game. So why shouldn’t we tax opposing players too?
It won’t cost WA residents anything, and in fact, it won’t cost most of the visiting players all that much either, as any tax they pay here can be deducted from their state and federal income taxes, and they’re already hiring accountants to file tax returns in a dozen or more states. And they’re millionaires. Put a high exemption on the tax so as not to burden low-paid athletes in low-profile sports, but make the A-Rods pay their due. They can afford it.
A Jock Tax would be a tax on the privilege of playing professional sports in Seattle, and as such is not explicitly prohibited by anything in state statute. To avoid potential legal complications due to our lack of an income tax, we'd likely have to levy the Jock Tax on our own athletes too. But that's okay. They can afford it. And a rather middling Jock Tax rate should easily cover the added expense of paying human service workers a $15 minimum wage.
Yeah, I know, an income tax is allegedly unconstitutional. But the underlying constitutional issue—Is income property? (Hint: It's not. It's a transaction)—hasn't come before the state supreme court in over half a century, and well respected constitutional attorneys expect our modern court would likely overturn the crippling 1933 decision. Overturning that decision would put an income tax back on the table in Olympia, and that is the only way to spark the kind of debate that could ever lead to building the political support necessary for implementation.
So that's my modest proposal: pass a Jock Tax dedicated to funding human services, while phasing in a $15 minimum wage for human service providers over a period long enough to allow for the Jock Tax to wend its way through the courts.