Thursday Night Owls: Washington state lawmakers ponder a 1% wealth tax

Thursday Night Owls: Washington state lawmakers ponder a 1% wealth tax

Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

Chuck Collins at Inequality.org writes—The Movement for a Wealth Tax in Washington State. A levy of just 1% on wealth over $1 billion would raise more than $2 billion per year to meet the state’s urgent social needs:

Legislators in Washington state are taking bold steps towards instituting a state-level wealth tax. The proposed tax is a 1 percent levy on wealth over $1 billion, applying to fewer than 100 households in the state.

According to the state’s Department of Revenue, the tax would raise an estimated $2.25 billion in 2023 and $2.5 billion in 2024. At a February 2 hearing, House Finance Committee chair Noel Frame said it’s time to put a new “tool in the toolbox for comprehensive structural tax reform.” The state’s current tax system places an enormous burden on Washington’s working class.

At the February 2 virtual hearing, over 40 witnesses lined up to testify in support of HB1406, an act to “improve the equity of Washington state’s tax code” by creating a wealth tax and “taxing extraordinary financial intangible assets.”

Many witnesses pointed out that Washington state has one of the most regressive tax systems in the country, with no income tax, a weak corporate tax system, and an overdependence on sales taxes. “Low income families pay 18 percent of their income in taxes while the very wealthy pay less than 3 percent,” observed John Burbank from the Economic Opportunity Institute in his testimony.

“This state is a wonderful place to raise a family and to plant roots,” said Mary Curry, a Tacoma resident and owner of a day care center, in testimony before the committee. “But how do I build when the tax laws are so harsh to the working class such as myself?”

Washington state has been hammered during the pandemic, with nearly 312,000 state residents falling ill from Covid and 4,300 deaths. An estimated 2.1 million of the state’s workers lost jobs during the accompanying recession. The state government is facing a three-year budget gap of $3 billion.

“Rich millionaires like me pay less than what workers pay, even those who are barely getting by,” said Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments. “Even after this tax, billionaires will still pay a lower percentage than working people here… We have a $3.3 billion budget deficit that needs to be closed. There’s an easy way to close it.”

A number of legislators pointed to research by the Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on the growing concentration of billionaire wealth. As of February 2019, Washington state’s 13 known billionaires had $293 billion in wealth. By January 29, 2021, their total wealth had increased to $474 billion. In the last 10 months, starting with the pandemic lockdown in mid-March, Washington state billionaires saw their wealth surge by a combined $151 billion, an increase of over 47 percent. […]

THREE OTHER ARTICLES WORTH READING

COVID Has Turned These Nursing Home Residents Into Activists Fighting to Show Their Lives Matter, by Molly Schwartz. New York has severely undercounted COVID deaths in these facilities.

If Senators Won’t Kill the Filibuster, They Should at Least Sweat for It, by Elie Mystal and The Nation. The current version of the filibuster demands nothing of senators other than the desire to gum up democracy. That has to change.

Have Democrats Finally Realized That Power Is Only Real If You Use It? by Sam Loeb. After decades of cowering under the yoke of bipartisanship, Democrats finally showed a willingness to flex their power.

TOP COMMENTS • RESCUED DIARIES 

TWEET OF THE DAY

I feel like the fact that someone removed the panic button in Ayanna Presley’s office before the insurrection should be a bigger story.

— Andrea Junker ® (@Strandjunker) February 4, 2021

QUOTATION

“Extremism will generate both positive and negative reactions, or “engagements.” Facebook measures engagement by the number of clicks, “likes,” shares, and comments. This design feature—or flaw, if you care about the quality of knowledge and debate—ensures that the most inflammatory material will travel the farthest and the fastest. Sober, measured accounts of the world have no chance on Facebook. And when Facebook dominates our sense of the world and our social circles, we all potentially become carriers of extremist nonsense”
          ~~Siva VaidhyanathanAntisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (2018)

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2007—The Wages of Bigotry:

When they’re trying to get you to vote for that referendum that bans same-sex marriage*, they tell you that it’s all about The Sanctity of Marriage, and Protecting Religious Freedom, and that of course it’s not about Screwing Over Gay People.  It’s not going to disenfranchise anyone, they say—it’s about setting some common-sense limits.

Actions have consequences, though, and the people of Michigan are about to realize that their 2004 vote to prohibit same-sex marriage did, in fact, relegate an entire class of citizens to permanent second-class status. Because the Michigan Court of Appeals held today that the gay marriage ban also bans same-sex domestic partner benefits. […]

So even a quasi-autonomous public entity like the University of Michigan is now prohibited from offering some of its top employees domestic partner benefits. Unmarried opposite-sex partners, of course, can continue to enjoy the benefits. But gay employees and their families are SOL, even if they’ve been receiving family benefits for years. Is that what Michiganders expected when they passed their marriage ban? Who knows. But regardless of what they expected, <>this is what you actually get when you vote for a feel-good “protection of marriage” referendum.  No matter what its purveyors tell you, if you read it closely enough, somewhere buried in the fine print, you’ll find the wages of bigotry.  Today, we’re reminded that they eventually come due.

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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