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, June 23rd, 2022

Washingtonians remain supportive of a capital gains tax on the wealthy, despite right wing efforts to overturn ESSB 5096

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?

ANSWERS:

  • 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.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

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.

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