“I’m for a tax system in which, if you have more money, you pay a higher percentage in taxes. And I think the rich should pay more than they currently do."
That's not a quote from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. It's a quote from Bill “formerly the richest person in the world” Gates, Jr.
In no other state is this needed more than in our own "liberal" Washington, which has the most regressive tax structure in the entire nation. Reforming our tax code is one of the rare instances where following the lead of Idaho or Texas would produce more equitable outcomes.
Washington state is home to the richest city in the entire country. We are also home not to just one but two of the wealthiest people in the entire world. Because of our ridiculously regressive tax structure, these billionaires pay a lower tax rate than families who are a single paycheck away from experiencing homelessness. The poorest in our state pay around 10-15% of their income in taxes. The richest? Well, they only pay around 2%.
The legislature is heading back to Olympia on January 13th with a full slate of concerns to address. Homelessness looms large for many throughout the state, working families are being pushed out of their homes due to rising costs, nursing homes are being shut down at alarming rates, our entire transportation infrastructure is in danger, and the earth is on fire. We need bold and courageous leaders to act right now, because, for a lot of people, there is no tomorrow.
The good news is that we know how to fix these issues: Tax the rich.
What does this look like? Capital gains is a no brainer. The proposals under consideration before the legislature include exemptions for personal homes and retirement accounts with thresholds so high that only multi-millionaires would be impacted.
I’ve also proposed a modest and marginal excise fee on corporations that pay executives over $1 million a year. This means companies who pay CEOs $1,000,001 per year would be liable in the range of 2 to 5 cents. This plan alone would generate more than $3 billion over a 10-year period.
These two proposals would impact less than .01% of people in Washington state, but since the people they touch are so wealthy, these bills could raise a combined $600+ million per year.
Even if we implemented only one of these proposals, the impact would be so profound that, in fact, we'd be able to fund necessary programs and lower taxes for people in Washington.
If you are reading this and worrying that we plan to raise taxes on you, there’s a 99.99% chance you're wrong. But, if you are in the .01% of people who would be impacted by this legislation, then congratulations: you're one of the wealthiest people ever to live in the history of humanity. Thank you for reading this article, but it’s time to pay your fucking fair share of taxes.
In Washington state, we have a lot of well-intentioned people (mostly Democrats) who talk a big game about progressive tax reform, but very few of these people are actually willing to do it, especially during a dreaded "short session," where some politicians are more worried about upcoming elections than doing the right thing to support their constituents. A short session is not an excuse to do nothing, and definitely not an excuse for incrementalism.
People don't care if it's a short session. Homelessness doesn't care. Underfunded schools don't care. Seniors being pushed out of their homes don't care.
We were sent to Olympia to do work. Tax reform isn't and won't be easy. But that doesn't change the fact that everyday people are suffering and dying in the streets on our watch.
We can fix this. We can help hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people by barely raising rates on the extremely rich.
The wealthy already have enough lobbyists fighting for them. They don’t need legislators doing it as well.
Sen. Joe Nguyen represents Washington's 34th District, which includes White Center, West Seattle, Burien, Vashon Island, and Maury Island.