Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty
Washington legislators, remember your paramount duty (NPI illustration)

A major­i­ty of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans remain sup­port­ive of levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy to ensure our state meets its para­mount duty of pro­vid­ing an amply fund­ed edu­ca­tion for all chil­dren resid­ing with­in its bor­ders, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s most recent statewide sur­vey has confirmed.

57% of like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sur­veyed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling at the end of last month said they sup­port a cap­i­tal gains tax to fund edu­ca­tion, with 44% express­ing strong sup­port. Respon­dents were asked:

Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose or strong­ly oppose tax­ing the cap­i­tal gains of wealthy indi­vid­u­als to help pay for pub­lic schools, col­leges and universities?

Answers were as follows:

  • Sup­port: 57%
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 44%
    • Some­what sup­port: 13%
  • Oppose: 41%
    • Some­what oppose: 12%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 29%
  • Not sure: 1%

Con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling, the sur­vey of 887 like­ly 2018 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from June 27th-28th, 2017; all respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed via land­line. The poll has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

NPI began ask­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans about their views on a cap­i­tal gains tax in 2015, find­ing 55% in sup­port then, with 43% strong­ly sup­port­ive. Our 2017 find­ing tracks with this base­line, demon­strat­ing vot­ers still want to see the wealthy step up and pay their fair share to sup­port our pub­lic schools, col­leges, and universities.

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee has repeat­ed­ly pro­posed levy­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, as have House Democ­rats, but Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have repeat­ed­ly refused to even con­sid­er the idea. How­ev­er, they may soon be out of power.

If the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is vic­to­ri­ous in this year’s spe­cial Sen­ate elec­tion in the 45th Dis­trict, the Sen­ate will be under new lead­er­ship by the end of the year — lead­er­ship that is open to pur­su­ing pro­gres­sive rev­enue reforms.

Man­ka Dhin­gra, the par­ty’s can­di­date in the 45th, is on record as in sup­port of a cap­i­tal gains tax, as Cross­cut report­ed today:

Dhin­gra, who says new rev­enue is need­ed, sup­ports imple­ment­ing cap­i­tal gains and pol­luter tax­es while clos­ing tax loopholes.

“We nev­er went and fixed all the [bud­get] cuts that were made dur­ing the time of the reces­sion,” she said.

“And now we are [at] a point of cri­sis,” she added, refer­ring to the edu­ca­tion as well as the men­tal health and crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tems issues she has worked on for many years as a prosecutor.

“If you want to take care of the pop­u­la­tion, you have to make sure you are invest­ing in the population.”

NPI’s sur­vey also found that vot­ers across the state agree with Dhin­gra’s sen­ti­ment that new rev­enue is need­ed to sup­port pub­lic education.

Respon­dents were asked:

Do you strong­ly agree, some­what agree, some­what dis­agree or strong­ly dis­agree with the fol­low­ing state­ment: Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic schools are under­fund­ed, and we need to raise state rev­enue to ful­ly fund them?

60% of respon­dents said they agreed with that state­ment, while only 37% dis­agreed. Answers in each cat­e­go­ry were as follows:

  • Agree: 60%
    • Strong­ly agree: 39%
    • Some­what agree: 31%
  • Dis­agree: 37%
    • Some­what dis­agree: 17%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 20%
  • Not sure: 4%

The Leg­is­la­ture is set to adjourn its third over­time ses­sion today. It’s like­ly law­mak­ers will be going home with­out hav­ing sent Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee a cap­i­tal bud­get to sign into law. The House vot­ed out a cap­i­tal bud­get bill weeks ago with hard­ly any dis­sent­ing votes, but the Sen­ate has not fol­lowed suit despite repeat­ed calls for action by Inslee and edu­ca­tion advocates.

The fail­ure to pass a cap­i­tal bud­get will jeop­ar­dize school con­struc­tion projects all over the state and ham­per elect­ed lead­ers from argu­ing the state has made mean­ing­ful progress towards com­ply­ing with the Supreme Court’s McCleary orders.

The Leg­is­la­ture did man­age to agree on an oper­at­ing bud­get that will, at least tem­porar­i­ly, raise some addi­tion­al mon­ey for our schools through an increase in the state prop­er­ty tax levy (though that comes with lim­i­ta­tions on local levy authority).

Edu­ca­tion advo­cates and coun­sel for the McCleary plain­tiffs have stat­ed emphat­i­cal­ly that this rev­enue infu­sion isn’t enough to meet the state’s con­sti­tu­tion­al oblig­a­tions.

And the Wash­ing­ton Bud­get & Pol­i­cy Cen­ter says the rev­enue gen­er­at­ed by the prop­er­ty tax will not be sus­tain­able over the long term due to the fail­ure to repeal Tim Eyman’s I‑747 and replace it with pro­gres­sive prop­er­ty tax reform — an assess­ment NPI con­curs with.

Pro­gres­sive rev­enue reforms like a cap­i­tal gains tax are sore­ly need­ed if Wash­ing­ton’s para­mount duty is to be met, and if the state is to become a mod­el of fis­cal health.

NPI’s research has con­sis­tent­ly found that vot­ers would like to see their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives agree on leg­is­la­tion to over­haul the state’s upside down, regres­sive tax code. That did­n’t hap­pen this year, but there’s always next year — and in 2018, should the Sen­ate get a new major­i­ty, the prospects could be much improved.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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