Invest in Washington's Future
Invest in Washington's Future

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:

Roll Call
SB 5096
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!

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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