NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

NPI again urges Washington State Legislature to embrace equity with a capital gains tax

This evening, the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee is hear­ing tes­ti­mo­ny on Sen­ate Bill 5096, which would levy a cap­i­tal gains tax at the state lev­el to fund essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices and make our upside down tax code more equi­table. Prime spon­sored by Sen­a­tor June Robin­son (D‑38th Dis­trict), SB 5096 would levy a nine per­cent cap­i­tal gains tax begin­ning Jan­u­ary 1st, 2022.

A short time ago, I tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the bill on NPI’s behalf, urg­ing that it be giv­en a “do pass rec­om­men­da­tion”, and explain­ing that our research has con­sis­tent­ly found sta­ble sup­port among Wash­ing­ton vot­ers for a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy for more than half a decade.

We first asked vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton how they feel about a cap­i­tal gains tax in 2015, and we have con­tin­ued to ask every year since then.

Our May 2020 respons­es are below.

Capital gains tax poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: 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?


  • Sup­port: 59% 
    • Strong­ly Sup­port: 42%
    • Some­what Sup­port: 17%
  • Oppose: 32%
    • Some­what Oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly Oppose: 21%
  • Not Sure: 9%

Note that more respon­dents said they strong­ly sup­port a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy than the total num­ber who said they were opposed.

We also found in that same sur­vey about that an almost iden­ti­cal per­cent­age of vot­ers feel that schools in Wash­ing­ton are still under­fund­ed, despite the Leg­is­la­ture’s work to respond to the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

School funding poll finding (May of 2020)

QUESTION: 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?


  • Agree: 60%
    • Strong­ly agree: 35%
    • Some­what agree: 25%
  • Dis­agree: 31% 
    • Some­what dis­agree: 15%
    • Strong­ly dis­agree: 16%
  • Not Sure: 9%

Our May 2020 sur­vey of 1,070 like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 19th through Wednes­day, May 20th, 2020.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

As men­tioned, we’ve always found majori­ties in sup­port of ded­i­cat­ing a cap­i­tal gains tax on high earn­ers to edu­ca­tion. How­ev­er, there’s also strong sup­port among Wash­ing­to­ni­ans for a hybrid approach, with some rev­enue being ded­i­cat­ed to schools and some rev­enue being ded­i­cat­ed to low­er­ing tax­es for low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies who cur­rent­ly pay more than their fair share, as we can see from the respons­es to this ques­tion that we asked in Octo­ber of 2019.

Capital gains tax poll finding (October of 2019)

QUESTION: If Wash­ing­ton’s Leg­is­la­ture levies a state cap­i­tal gains tax on the sale of assets like stocks, bonds, or pre­cious met­als by the very wealthy, how should the rev­enue be used: do you think the mon­ey should go only to the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust account to fund ear­ly learn­ing, pub­lic schools, col­leges, and uni­ver­si­ties; should the mon­ey be used exclu­sive­ly to reduce tax­es for low income fam­i­lies and small busi­ness own­ers; or should the mon­ey be used for a com­bi­na­tion of edu­ca­tion fund­ing and reduc­tions in tax­es for low income fam­i­lies and small busi­ness owners?


  • Think rev­enue should go only to the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust account: 21%
  • Think it should be used exclu­sive­ly to reduce tax­es for low income fam­i­lies and small busi­ness own­ers: 12%
  • Think it should be used for a com­bi­na­tion of edu­ca­tion fund­ing and reduc­tions in tax­es: 48%
  • Not Sure: 19%

Our Octo­ber 2019 sur­vey of nine hun­dred like­ly 2019 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field Octo­ber 22nd-23rd, 2019.

The sur­vey used a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sages to cell phone only respondents.

As with the May 2020 sur­vey, this poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for NPI, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

Unlike Crosscut/Elway, when we ask about sup­port for a cap­i­tal gains tax in our statewide sur­veys, we always men­tion what it could hypo­thet­i­cal­ly pay for. That’s because you can­not accu­rate­ly gauge how vot­ers feel about a pro­posed rev­enue mea­sure unless you tell them how the rev­enue would be used. All bud­gets con­tain appro­pri­a­tions; oth­er­wise, they would not make any sense.

There are two sides to every math­e­mat­i­cal equa­tion, and leav­ing out the invest­ment side will yield flawed data every time. Tax­es have a pur­pose. Thy can and should be thought of as invest­ments. By pool­ing our resources togeth­er, accord­ing to our abil­i­ty to pay, we can afford great pub­lic ser­vices that allow us to lead more ful­fill­ing lives and be eco­nom­i­cal­ly secure.

One more note about our polling: In pub­lic opin­ion research, it’s impor­tant to have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple. Oth­er­wise, the data could be flawed. Unlike the instant polls you some­times see on tele­vi­sion (Sin­clair’s KOMO is very fond of those), or polls on social net­works, our polls are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly accurate.

Our poll­ster uses a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy to ensure that the sam­ple is rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Blend­ed means that respons­es are gath­ered through more than one medi­um. It’s not suf­fi­cient just to call peo­ple at their homes any­more because many peo­ple (and almost all young peo­ple) don’t have land­lines anymore.

The notion of account­ing for “cell­phone only vot­ers” has also become dat­ed. Nowa­days, an out­right major­i­ty of respon­dents to our peri­od­ic statewide sur­veys do so via text mes­sage. That was true for both our Octo­ber 2019 poll and our May 2020 poll, which the ques­tions above are from.

Our elec­toral polling serves as a mea­sur­ing stick to allow us to gauge how rep­re­sen­ta­tive our sam­ples are. In Octo­ber of 2020, we polled on every sin­gle statewide can­di­date elec­tion and released the results right here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. In each race we polled, our research cor­rect­ly fore­shad­owed the win­ner, even in races where there were large num­bers of unde­cid­ed voters.

We are proud of our strong part­ner­ship with Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling and the work that we put into ensur­ing that our ques­tions are neu­tral­ly worded.

It has been over half a decade since Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee first pro­posed a cap­i­tal gains tax as part of his bud­get. Though much has changed dur­ing those six years, one thing has­n’t: vot­ers’ enthu­si­asm for mak­ing our tax code more equi­table with a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy. We’ve talked about doing this for long enough. Vot­ers have elect­ed strong Demo­c­ra­t­ic majori­ties for two cycles run­ning now. They want and expect results. It’s time for the Leg­is­la­ture to deliver.

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