Voters in Washington remain supportive of taxing the capital gains of the state’s wealthiest families to fund critical investments in early learning, childcare, and public education, NPI’s most recent statewide survey of likely voters confirms.
56% of 1,039 Washington voters interviewed from June 1st-2nd, 2022 expressed support for levying a capital gains tax on the wealthy after hearing a selection of arguments for and against it, while 37% expressed opposition. 7% were not sure.
This is the eighth consecutive year that a statewide NPI survey has found a majority of Washington voters in favor of a capital gains tax, which indicates that there is a durable, dependable reservoir of support in the Evergreen State for balancing our tax code with progressive laws based on ability to pay.
Last year, acknowledging the need to fix Washington’s upside down tax code and deepen our investments in essential public services, the Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 5096, which Governor Jay Inslee subsequently signed into law following Sine Die.
ESSB 5096 transformed what had previously been a long-discussed proposal into the law of the land, over the objections of Republican legislators bent on keeping Washington a tax haven for millionaires and billionaires who aren’t paying their fair share in dues to support and strengthen Washington’s communities.
Within months of ESSB 5096’s adoption, a group of right wing plaintiffs represented by former Attorney General Rob McKenna filed a legal challenge against the new law, seeking its invalidation on constitutional grounds.
The group selected Douglas County as the venue for its lawsuit, seeking a friendly trial court in a jurisdiction with a long history of anti-tax sentiment, and succeeded in obtaining a favorable preliminary ruling from Judge Brian Huber, which has since been appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court.
While the case was pending before Huber, a separate effort helmed by former Dino Rossi aide J. Vander Stoep began soliciting funds for a ballot measure campaign to repeal ESSB 5096 via initiative. However, the effort stalled out and ceased operations without gathering a single signature.
That has left McKenna’s legal challenge as the only vehicle for overturning ESSB 5096 — at least for the time being. Right wing groups ardently opposed to revenue fairness in Washington have made the lawsuit a P.R. priority, generating a steady stream of blog posts and tweets attacking ESSB 5096 from every angle in an attempt to sway public opinion against the law.
But as our latest poll finding demonstrates, they simply aren’t getting traction.
Here’s the text of the detailed capital gains tax question that we have been asking since ESSB 5096 passed following the adjournment of last year’s session. As you can see, it presents both the case for the capital gains tax as well as the case against it, using the opposition’s own language word-for-word.
QUESTION: Proponents say that Washington State’s new state capital gains tax on the wealthy will raise about $500 million a year in crucial funding for education in Washington State, including early learning and childcare, and will help balance our upside-down tax code by requiring the wealthiest 8,000 individuals to step up and pay their fair share in dues to our state. Opponents say that the new state capital gains tax on the wealthy is an unconstitutional and illegal income tax that will hurt job creation and put the state at a competitive disadvantage, hurting the whole economy while failing to address regressivity. Both sides agree that the text of the capital gains tax law fully exempts retirement accounts, family farms, and all real estate. Having heard the arguments for and against, do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose Washington’s new state capital gains tax on the wealthy?
- Support: 56%
- Strongly: 41%
- Somewhat: 15%
- Oppose: 37%
- Somewhat: 8%
- Strongly: 29%
- Not sure: 7%
Our survey of 1,039 likely 2022 Washington State voters was in the field from Wednesday, June 1st through Thursday, June 2nd, 2022.
It utilizes a blended methodology, with automated phone calls to landlines (50%) and text message answers from cell phone only respondents (50%).
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 interval.
When we asked this exact same question in May of 2021, in a survey of 992 likely voters, support stood at 57% overall, with 40% opposition and 3% not sure.
In the span of a year, total support has remained virtually unchanged, with a slight boost in intensity (41% strongly supportive this year versus 39% strongly supportive last year) and a three point decrease in total opposition. And that’s during a period of time during which right wing groups like the Washington Policy Center have been trying furiously to rally people against ESSB 5096.
It’s truly reassuring to see that public support for this crucially important progressive tax reform has remained intact despite the effort to turn Washingtonians against it. The recent spectacular demise of I‑1929 was a tacit concession from right wing forces that public opinion isn’t on their side.
If they were confident of winning a statewide vote, they would have moved forward, even at an inflated cost of tens of millions (which their donors could have afforded). But they chose not to because of the high risk of failure.
If ESSB 5096 can pass constitutional muster in the courts, it stands an excellent chance of remaining the law of the land in Washington, because — as our polling once again shows — it’s a winner in the court of public opinion.