Litigation

A roundup of reaction to the Supreme Court’s Quinn ruling upholding WA’s capital gains tax

This morn­ing, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court decid­ed Quinn et al v. State of Wash­ing­ton et al (No. 100,769–8), hold­ing that the cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy levied by the 2021 Leg­is­la­ture is legal and constitutional.

Our response to the rul­ing and high­lights from it are avail­able in this post.

Ever since 8 AM, we’ve been receiv­ing state­ments from elect­ed offi­cials, activists, and orga­ni­za­tions com­ment­ing on the deci­sion. Here’s a roundup of the reaction:

Governor Jay Inslee

For one hun­dred and thir­ty-four years, Wash­ing­ton state has been wait­ing for the day when a fair­er tax sys­tem came about, one where work­ing peo­ple were not car­ry­ing an inequitable share of the bur­den. Today is that day. Washington’s cap­i­tal gains tax helps right an upside-down tax struc­ture where low-income Wash­ing­to­ni­ans ulti­mate­ly expend a much larg­er share of their income in tax­es than our wealth­i­est residents.

It is grat­i­fy­ing as gov­er­nor to join so many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans in this his­toric vic­to­ry today, one that has been elu­sive in the face of years of oppo­si­tion from pow­er­ful inter­ests. I want to thank the court for their time­li­ness in con­sid­er­ing this case, and all the leg­is­la­tors and advo­cates who spent near­ly a decade work­ing tire­less­ly on this pol­i­cy to make our state fair­er and more equitable.

– Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

This is an impor­tant win for edu­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton. This vic­to­ry pro­tects sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing for child­care and ear­ly child­hood education.

– Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Ferguson

Senator June Robinson

Today’s deci­sion is the cul­mi­na­tion of over a decade of work to fix our upside-down tax code and rewrite the rules to make a sys­tem that’s fair­er for everyone.

With the cap­i­tal gains excise tax, we will be able to bet­ter invest in our chil­dren, in our schools, in our teach­ers, in our fam­i­lies. We will invest in oppor­tu­ni­ties for our neigh­bors, mak­ing sure every per­son in every com­mu­ni­ty has the sup­ports and sys­tems they need to thrive.

Our state has one of the most regres­sive tax codes in the nation. A Wash­ing­ton­ian mak­ing low wages pays almost 18% of their income to state and local tax­es, while the wealth­i­est among us pay about 3%. This places a ter­ri­ble, dis­pro­por­tion­ate bur­den on work­ing fam­i­lies and small busi­ness­es, and it makes our econ­o­my more vul­ner­a­ble to a recession.

This is a key first step toward a more fair and equi­table tax sys­tem — one that asks the wealthy few, about 7,000 peo­ple, to be part of invest­ing in our state’s thriv­ing future by pay­ing what they tru­ly owe in tax­es; one that fos­ters, not sti­fles, a flour­ish­ing econ­o­my and the health and suc­cess of all Washingtonians.

– Sen­a­tor June Robin­son, D‑38th Dis­trict (Sno­homish County)

State Representative April Berg, House Finance Chair

Today’s deci­sion not only con­firms the state’s posi­tion that the cap­i­tal gains tax is an excise tax, but it also pro­vides the clar­i­ty need­ed to move for­ward with this sig­nif­i­cant reform to our tax structure.

We know that peo­ple from every cor­ner of our state are ready to move toward a health­i­er, stronger future togeth­er, and it’s time for the wealth­i­est among us to share in the respon­si­bil­i­ty of fund­ing the needs of our com­mu­ni­ties. The rev­enues from this tax will fund crit­i­cal sup­ports in our com­mu­ni­ties such as expand­ing access and increas­ing afford­abil­i­ty of child care, ear­ly learn­ing, and the state’s para­mount duty to pro­vide an edu­ca­tion for the chil­dren of Washington.

– State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive April Berg, D‑44th Dis­trict (Sno­homish County)

Senator Noel Frame

I’m encour­aged by this rul­ing, but our work on reform­ing our tax sys­tem so the wealth­i­est few pay what they owe must continue.

This rul­ing locks in our law ensur­ing par­i­ty in excise tax­a­tion on trans­ac­tions. When peo­ple sell prop­er­ty — whether they’re sell­ing real prop­er­ty and pay­ing the real estate excise tax, or whether they are sell­ing intan­gi­ble prop­er­ty like stocks and bonds and pay­ing the cap­i­tal gains excise tax — they will pay their fair share.

Our next step is to ensure par­i­ty in tax­a­tion on wealth.

Mid­dle-class home­own­ers have been pay­ing prop­er­ty tax on their hous­es for decades, but the wealth­i­est few don’t have to pay prop­er­ty tax on their main source of wealth: stocks, bonds, and oth­er finan­cial assets. The pro­posed Wash­ing­ton State Wealth Tax would ensure par­i­ty in prop­er­ty tax­a­tion between the work­ing fam­i­lies who already have to pay prop­er­ty tax on their wealth — their homes — and the rich­est peo­ple in the world, who don’t pay a dime in prop­er­ty tax on the finan­cial assets that make up their wealth.

I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing my work to bring this bill into law.

– Sen­a­tor Noel Frame, D‑36th Dis­trict (Seat­tle)

Dr. Stephan Blanford

Mil­lions of stu­dents, whether in pre-school, high school, or tech­ni­cal col­lege, will direct­ly ben­e­fit from the extra $500 mil­lion per year raised by this tax on the ultra-rich. With pas­sage of the cap­i­tal gains tax, our state went from being one of the most regres­sive tax sys­tems in the coun­try to one that promis­es to be more bal­anced. There’s more work to be done to ensure that mil­lion­aires and bil­lion­aires pay what they owe in tax­es, and take the pres­sure off work­ing- and mid­dle-class families.

– Dr. Stephan Blan­ford, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Chil­dren’s Alliance

Treasure Mackley

The Wash­ing­ton Supreme Court deci­sion over­turns a Dou­glas Coun­ty judge’s ear­li­er rul­ing in Quinn v Wash­ing­ton, a case brought by a small hand­ful of ultra-millionaires.

The 7% cap­i­tal gains tax on stock sales’ extra­or­di­nary prof­its exceed­ing $250,000 annu­al­ly does not apply to real estate, retire­ment accounts like IRAs, fam­i­ly-owned small busi­ness­es, and farms, among oth­er things.

It impacts just the wealth­i­est among us; only 0.2% of Wash­ing­ton­ian tax­pay­ers will see enough prof­its to pay this tax.

We applaud the Court for see­ing through this delay tac­tic by ultra-mil­lion­aires to avoid pay­ing what they owe for Washington’s child care, pre-schools, and oth­er edu­ca­tion programs.

We have a long way to go, but when we insist that every­one — includ­ing the wealth­i­est Wash­ing­to­ni­ans — pay what they tru­ly owe in tax­es — we begin to undo decades of racism and dis­in­vest­ment that hurts fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, and small businesses.

– Trea­sure Mack­ley, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Invest in WA Now

Sharon Chen

All wealthy peo­ple need to pay more tax­es – and I should know, I’m one of them. To those who say the new state cap­i­tal gains tax on stock prof­its big­ger than $250,000 will some­how dri­ve away our wealth­i­est res­i­dents – that’s not how it works.

Wealthy peo­ple move to, and stay in, places that have great schools and uni­ver­si­ties, clean air and water, healthy food, and a vibrant cul­ture. Those who’ve done extreme­ly well in Wash­ing­ton have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to act togeth­er to invest in our state and our communities.

– Sharon Chen, Progress Alliance board member

The right wing Washington Policy Center

This rul­ing under­mines Wash­ing­ton state’s com­pet­i­tive sta­tus mak­ing it hard­er for our state to attract, retain, and grow jobs and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty. This deci­sion is a loss for our state. The one-of-a-kind tax cre­at­ed by the law is a volatile source of rev­enue for the state at best and a sure­fire gate­way for more income tax­es to come.  Expe­ri­ence shows that the income they seek will rapid­ly move to states where invest­ment is wel­come. Texas and Flori­da won today.

– Mike Gal­lagher, Pres­i­dent and CEO of Wash­ing­ton Pol­i­cy Center

This post will be updat­ed with addi­tion­al reac­tion as we get it.

Andrew Villeneuve

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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