Like most parents, one of my main goals for my children is to teach them how to be thoughtful, loving members of our community. It’s important to me that they grow up believing that we all have a responsibility to take care of one another, our neighbors, and our environment, no matter where we live or what’s in our wallets. That means we are all responsible for ensuring that everyone in our community has access to the foundations for a happy and fulfilling life, including affordable healthcare, quality childcare, a good education, and a neighborhood with parks to play in and safe roads to drive on.
I also try to help them understand that even though I have a well-paying job and they will never want for these things, the same is not true for all of our neighbors. My kids don’t understand why this is, but I do—our tax code is completely upside-down.
As a software engineer, I’ve done well for myself in Washington, and I can afford to invest back in my community. However, because the wealthy and powerful few have spent decades rigging our tax code to work in their favor, my family is not required to pay our share of state and local taxes.
Washington has built and maintained a tax code that actively punishes people who live on low incomes. My family and I live in the Central District in Seattle, and some of our lower-income neighbors—who are mostly Black, Indigenous, or other people of color— pay up to 18% of their income in state and local taxes, while some of the wealthiest of my peers—who are mostly white—pay 3% or less.
This is a racist system and a moral failing in our state. Our tax code keeps in place policies that perpetuate race and class divides. We deserve a system that is more just and equitable so that everyone can participate in the economy and every community can thrive. Fixing the tax code will not end racism in Washington, but it would be a much-needed concrete step.
Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen women leave the workforce in droves due to a lack of access to affordable childcare. This is an emergency that is impacting every industry. I've seen first-hand how difficult it is to juggle toddler care or remote learning with the responsibilities of a full-time job in the fast-paced tech world, where long-standing struggles with gender equity are being exacerbated. Access to childcare is absolutely necessary for Washington state to have a just and equitable recovery from our current economic situation.
That is why I applaud the legislature for taking our economic recovery seriously by introducing a tax on extraordinary income from capital gains. Senate Bill 5096 would raise more than $550 million annually to directly support access to affordable childcare and early learning programs, and other programs to support equity and justice.
That’s a great start to fixing our upside-down tax code, but the legislature should not stop there. Proposals like the wealth tax (HB 1406) and a more progressive estate tax (HB 1465) could fund our state’s recovery from the COVID economic crisis by bolstering programs that keep people in their homes, ensure equitable access to education, public safety and so much more. These measures would also make sure that Washington is better prepared to face the next emergency head on.
As a high income earner working in tech, I want to be taxed on my wealth, and so do my colleagues. Together, we are calling on our representatives to vote yes on taxes that will finally require us to pay our share. If you care about these issues, you should sign, too.
Our state is a hub for innovation, an incubator for creative talent, and there’s no better place for someone like me to build a fruitful career. I will not move out of state as a result of the Legislature doing its job to rebalance our upside-down tax code, and neither will anyone I know. My family has planted deep roots here. New taxes will not drive us away, they will only help us protect this place we call home. I want to be an active partner in investing in the community where I live, and paying my share in taxes will help address deep inequities in our economy that leave our Black and brown neighbors on the margins. I want to ensure that there are robust enough investments to benefit all of Washington’s residents, not just the white and wealthy.
As my children grow, I sincerely hope that they will come to understand what it means to see economic justice in our communities. I aspire to teach them that as a wealthy family who has benefitted from racial privilege, it is our responsibility to play a role in dismantling the systems that block access to prosperity for our Black and brown neighbors. The Legislature should live these values, too, and rebalance our tax code by raising taxes on the wealthy few and reinvesting in our communities. Being able to tell my kids that we are active participants in the fight for racial and economic justice in our state is worth more to me than any tax break.
Kevin Litwack has been a software engineer for 15 years. He is currently employed at Amperity. He is an active member of his community who is passionate about racial and economic justice.