A Penny for the Governor, a Dollar for Uncle Sam

Income Taxation in Washington

Phil Roberts

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  • Published: 2002
  • Subject Listing: History / Western History; Law
  • Bibliographic information: 208 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Contents

In 1932, 60 percent of Washington State voters approved a state income tax. Within less than a year, the measure was struck down as unconstitutional by the state supreme court. Over half a century later, Washington remains one of only eight states without a state income tax. Yet Washington's conflicts and solutions were by no means unique.

Through an examination of how Washingtonians reacted to federal tax policy, responded to national debates over tax issues, and opted for particular forms of taxation for themselves and their property, Phil Roberts elucidates the larger patterns of evolving tax policy in the United States. A Penny for the Governor, a Dollar for Uncle Sam explores the complex mix of factors underlying tax decisions and demonstrates how taxation politics influenced (and were influenced by) broader economic and cultural forces from the days of Lincoln to the New Deal. Tax systems are shaped by assumptions about economic development, social responsibility, and government influence, as well as cultural outlooks and political philosophies.

This inquiry into the connections between politics and tax policy in the Pacific Northwest contributes to an understanding of the priorities that society holds about the place of government in relation to other institutions, the role government should play in the economic lives of its citizens, and t he relative influence of interest groups on the political process over time. A Penny for the Governor, a Dollar for Uncle Sam demonstrates the roles of governors, legislatures, courts, and average citizens in determining how income taxes were applied or resisted in the Northwest, and the important factors of class and geography in influencing taxation politics. The public debates on the subject are revealing of the role played by urban-rural conflicts in that most fundamental of political issues: taxes - who decides, who pays, and how much.
Phil Roberts is a professor of history at the University of Wyoming.

"A well-written and impressively documented case study of an important and timely topic - the debate over income taxes, both federal and state, in the Pacific Northwest."
-Michael Allen, University of Washington, Tacoma
Setting the Stage
Civil War Income Tax
Civil War Income Tax in Oregon: A Comparative Assessment
Consensus I: Federal Income Tax and Washington's Reaction, 1894
Consensus II: Washington Ratifies the Federal income Tax, 1911
The Background for Tax Reform, 1914-1931
The Washington Income Tax of 1931: Veto and Response
Electoral Success, Judicial Defeat
Attractive Alternatives to an Income Tax, 1933-1940
Income Tax Efforts after World War II
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