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WA joins multi-state effort to pass wealth tax

  • Written by Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service | January 19, 2023 - Lawmakers in Washington and other states are introducing bills taxing wealth in their legislatures in a coordinated effort today.

In Olympia, legislators aim to tax wealth made on the ownership of stocks, bonds and other financial assets.

Carolyn Brotherton, policy associate at the Economic Opportunity Institute, said the legislation targets multimillionaires and billionaires.

Washington state's tax code has been rated one of the nation's most regressive. (frittipix/Adobe Stock)

"It would be a 1% property tax on financial assets worth more than a quarter-billion dollars," Brotherton explained. "We're talking some of the wealthiest people not only in our state but in the world would pay the state wealth tax."

Brotherton noted the tax is estimated to generate $3 billion a year. The funds collected will go to education, housing, disability services and tax credits.

Washington state lawmakers and organizations supporting the bill will hold a news conference at 12:45 p.m. January 19, 2023. Lawmakers passed a capital-gains tax in 2021 aimed at wealthy Washingtonians, but the law has been challenged as unconstitutional because it resembles an income tax. The state Supreme Court will hear the case later this month.

Brotherton pointed out Washington state's tax system is reliant on sales tax, which creates a regressive system, in which low-income households pay a much higher portion of their wages in taxes than high-income households do. She added the last time the tax code was significantly updated was in 1933.

"Really, a state wealth tax is bringing our tax code into the 21st century," Brotherton contended. "The way our economy works today is very different than it worked in 1933. We have a very financialized economy."

Brotherton emphasized other states are also realizing their tax codes aren't keeping up with the current economy.

"Wealth inequality is out of control, and it's not just a matter of numbers on a page or issues about fairness," Brotherton asserted. "It's really about making sure that our communities have the resources that we need in order to live a good life."

Wealth taxes are being introduced in six other states today, including California and New York.