Screenshot

Screenshot

WA Democrats consider new tax on billionaires

Plan could raise $5 billion from fewer than 100 taxpayers. Detractors fear it could drive Washington’s wealthiest out of state.

By Patric Haerle

WNPA News Service

House Democrats are rallying around a proposal to tax Washington state’s billionaires.

House Bill 1406 would impose a 1 percent tax on intangible assets, such as money or stocks, on people whose wealth exceeds $1 billion.

The Washington State Department of Revenue estimates the tax would raise close to $5 billion from 2023 through 2025 and affect fewer than 100 state residents. Revenue raised by the plan would fund tax relief for low-income individuals and contribute to the state general fund.

The department also notes the lion’s share of the revenue would come from the state’s most wealthy individuals—such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, who are both worth more than $100 billion. The department analysis said the projected revenue would fall significantly if one or more of the wealthier individuals targeted by the bill left the state in the coming years.

Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, primary sponsor of the bill, said at a hearing Feb. 2 the aim was to shift the tax burden from Washington’s struggling working class.

“Who should be funding economic recovery?” Frame asked her colleagues at the hearing. “The families that have lost their jobs and their healthcare…or perhaps should we ask the wealthiest Washingtonians—many of which happen to be the wealthiest people in the world—to share equitably in the responsibility to recover, rebuild and reimagine our economy.”

The bill drew little opposition, although Republicans at the hearing suggested the bill could have unintended consequences, including pushing the state’s billionaires to pack up and move.

“My concern is that we won’t raise any revenue from this because people will just leave the state if they have to pay a billion dollars in taxes every year,” said Rep. Jeremie Dufault, R-Selah. “Is there any mechanism in this bill that precludes people from moving out of the state?”

Frame dismissed the idea.

“I think it’s a really pessimistic view of the world to just assume somebody would leave,” she said. “These are folks who are deeply invested in our community, some of which have been outspoken advocates for progressive tax reform for many years.”

Frame explained that Washington’s billionaires have increased their wealth by an estimated $151 billion in the past 10 months during the pandemic while many of the rest of the state’s population struggled to pay their bills.

Twenty-six lawmakers have signed on as cosponsors, including Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, and several committee chairs. All of the sponsors of the bill are Democrats.

Among the 1,326 members of the public who took positions at the bill hearing, 1,317 testified in favor of the proposal.

As lawmakers arguing in favor of the bill are quick to point out, Washington’s tax system is one of the most regressive in the nation. The state’s lowest income earners pay six times more as a share of their income than do the state’s wealthiest residents. Those making close to $70,000 pay approximately four times their share.

Frame believes that, whatever happens with her bill, the state tax system still requires reform.

“I absolutely do not think that this is the end-all be-all solution to the tax code… There is much work to be done, and this is not the answer to that process by any stretch of the imagination,” Frame said. “It is me as your colleague putting forward a possible tool in the toolbox for consideration.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@redmond-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.redmond-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Business

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Teaser
First large-scale, human composting facility in the world will open in Auburn

“It’s what nature meant us to do. We just do it faster.”

Mayuri International Foods partners, left: Mahidhar Reddy center: Neeraj Poudyal right: Ramesh Bachala (photo credit: Cameron Sheppard)
Mayuri International Foods grocery store to open in Redmond Town Center

The store will include a unique produce selection and an extensive menu of prepared hot foods.

“You stay, we pay,” promotion (photo credit: Bullseye Creative)
The city of Redmond wants to pay you to stay there

New tourism promotion will give $100 gift certificates for local businesses to guests at 8 hotels.

Whole Foods grocery store entrance (Shutterstock)
King County considers grocery store worker hazard pay for those in unincorporated areas

The King County Metropolitan Council will vote during its next meeting on… Continue reading

Screenshot
WA Democrats consider new tax on billionaires

Plan could raise $5 billion from fewer than 100 taxpayers. Detractors fear it could drive Washington’s wealthiest out of state.

Last summer, people took advantage of the outdoor dining along First Avenue between Gowe and Titus streets in downtown Kent. In Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Photo courtesy of Kent Downtown Partnership
Restaurant reprieve: State to relax some indoor restrictions

On Monday, area restaurants and certain entertainment venues may resume indoor service, the governor said.

Stock photo
State Senate passes $1.7 billion in unemployment insurance tax relief

Targets relief to the most affected businesses; helps low-wage workers by raising their benefits

Jason Wilson is a James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of The Lakehouse in Bellevue. Courtesy photo
James Beard Award winner wants to cook with you – virtually

Chef Jason Wilson can give customers an interactive dining experience in their own homes.

2021 Chevrolet Blazer. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Blazer

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to certain car models they… Continue reading

2021 Lexus RX 350L. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Lexus RX 350L

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a good day when a Lexus… Continue reading