Today, for the first time ever, the Washington State Senate’s Democratic majority voted to levy a capital gains tax on the wealthy to fund the state’s essential services. With no votes to spare, the chamber gave Senator June Robinson’s ESSB 5096 the constitutional majority needed to advance the legislation to the House of Representatives for further consideration during the 2021 session.
The roll call was as follows:
Capital gains tax
3rd Reading & Final Passage
Yeas: 25; Nays: 24
Voting Yea: Senators Billig, Carlyle, Conway, Darneille, Das, Dhingra, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, Lovelett, Nguyen, Nobles, Pedersen, Randall, Robinson, Rolfes, Saldaña, Salomon, Stanford, Van De Wege, Wellman, Wilson (Claire)
Voting Nay: Senators Braun, Brown, Cleveland, Dozier, Ericksen, Fortunato, Gildon, Hawkins, Hobbs, Holy, Honeyford, King, McCune, Mullet, Muzzall, Padden, Rivers, Schoesler, Sheldon, Short, Wagoner, Warnick, Wilson (Jeff), Wilson (Lynda)
Three Democratic senators joined all twenty-one Republicans in voting no: Mark Mullet from the 5th District, Steve Hobbs from the 44th District, and, surprisingly, Annette Cleveland from the 49th District. Because the party has twenty-eight seats in the Senate, it could afford to lose three members and still pass the bill.
It’s worth noting that the historic passage of ESSB 5096 was made possible by T’wina Nobles’ victory in the 28th Legislative District last year. Nobles, who defeated Republican Steve O’Ban, delivered the crucial twenty-fifth vote that the Senate Democratic caucus did not previously have for this legislation.
Two years ago, when the previous Legislature convened, there were only twenty-three likely votes for a capital gains tax on the wealthy out of twenty-eight members of the Democratic caucus… not enough for passage.
A dependable twenty-fourth vote arrived when Guy Palumbo resigned his seat in the 1st District and was replaced by State Representative Derek Stanford.
That still left the caucus one vote short of a majority, though.
Then, last year, the Democrats and Republicans traded a pair of Senate seats. The Republicans defeated Dean Takko in the 19th while the Democrats knocked out O’Ban with Nobles in the 28th. While these results left the overall balance of power in the Senate unchanged, the whip count on capital gains changed.
The Class of 2018 (freshmen Mona Das, Emily Randall, Claire Wilson) all supported the bill, and we are incredibly grateful to them. They’ll each be subjected to Republican attacks in their districts for taking this historic vote. But they’re courageous Democratic women, and they voted their values and principles.
We are so proud of them.
We are also proud of our own hometown senators, Manka Dhingra and Patty Kuderer, who represent Redmond. They each delivered eloquent speeches in favor of the bill on final passage, rooted in the logic of progressive values.
As for Senator June Robinson, ESSB 5096’s sponsor, she is a hero of Washington. She has been patient, focused, and determined from Day One. Today’s victory would not have been possible without her leadership.
NPI has been building support for a capital gains tax on the wealthy for over half a decade. We have six straight years of polling data showing that a significant majority of Washingtonians want to reduce the inequity in our tax code by levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy to fund public education.
Importantly, we have consistently found that the number of likely voters who are strongly supportive outnumber those who are opposed overall. We don’t see the same intensity of support for every idea that we poll on, but we definitely see it when we ask Washington voters about levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy.
Now that ESSB 5096 has passed, it goes to the Washington State House of Representatives for further consideration. It will get a warm welcome upon referral in the House Finance Committee, chaired by State Representative Noel Frame (D‑36th District). From there, it’ll go to Appropriations and then House Rules, assuming it earns “do pass” recommendations at each stage.
The House will have the option of making its own changes to the bill. If the Senate signs off on those changes, the bill would go to Governor Inslee for his signature. Otherwise, the two chambers would negotiate on a final version that would receive an up or down vote on each side of the Rotunda.
The math for a capital gains tax bill has always been considered to be more difficult in the Senate than the House, so it’s a really, really, really big deal that ESSB 5096 passed the Senate today. Kudos to all of NPI’s partners who worked so hard on this outcome, especially the members of the Balance Our Tax Code Coalition, to which NPI belongs, and our friends at the Washington Budget & Policy Center, who’ve helped develop the case for this worthy idea.
The work continues, but this victory is a real cause for celebration!