NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Washingtonians still want a capital gains tax to fund public education, NPI poll confirms

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.

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