Patty Liu, a mom of two young boys who lives in King County, pays more than $2,500 every month for child care. That’s more than her family’s mortgage and car payment combined. In fact, it’s more than the cost of annual tuition at any public university in Washington.
Patty’s situation is not unique. As a parent, I’ve also struggled to find quality child care that’s available in my neighborhood. I believe that every parent, no matter how much money they have in their wallet, should be able to work a shift knowing their child is safe and happy. However, in the past, some elected officials chose not to make children a priority. They put the cost of safe, affordable child care out of reach for many working families. It’s women — particularly women of color — who pay the biggest price, literally, dropping out of the workforce to take on the responsibility of caring for their young children, often because that makes more financial sense than working. Not only are they missing a paycheck, but we’re missing their talent and perspective in our offices.
The pandemic didn’t cause a crisis of affordable, accessible child care, but it quickly showed tears in the fabric of the system. Our child-care system needs to be remade before it disintegrates completely. Given that 15% of our workforce are parents to young children, our state’s economic recovery depends on it.
This year, lawmakers in Olympia made important progress on child care, early learning and education. We applaud their leadership in creating Fair Start for Kids, which expands access to preschool and early learning and will make child care accessible to thousands more families, especially Black, Indigenous and people of color; students who are parents; and single moms. Fair Start for Kids will mean fewer parents have to choose between working or leaving a job to care for their children.
Fair Start for Kids and other programs are funded because lawmakers in Washington state are finally requiring the wealthy to start paying what they owe through a tax on capital-gains profits. It is a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other intangible assets on profits exceeding $250,000 annually, and exempts retirement funds, real estate, small family-owned businesses and more. Fewer than 1% of the state’s wealthiest residents will pay this tax, but their wealth is so enormous that this modest tax will raise an estimated $500 million each year for child care and education.
The capital-gains tax is an important start to balancing our state’s upside-down tax code. Washington is dead last when it comes to tax fairness. The lowest earners in our state pay the highest percent of their income in state and local taxes (nearly 18%), while the wealthiest pay the least (just 3%).
It’s not fair to continue asking low- and middle-income Washingtonians to pay more than their share in taxes, while the wealthiest get away with not paying what they owe.
Our tax code has systemic and institutional racism baked into it. It serves those with wealth and power who also happen to be mostly white, while denying Black and brown people access to wealth and opportunity.
By taking bold action to reform our tax code, legislators are choosing to accelerate a long-term, equitable recovery for all of our communities. Thanks to those elected leaders, moms like Patty and I are breathing a sigh of relief when they hear that more options for affordable child care are coming soon.
Our organization and so many others — like MomsRising, Balance Our Tax Code, All In For Washington, Washington State Budget & Policy Center and more — have been advocating for a capital-gains tax for years because we want healthy, prosperous communities. We’re excited to see it pass this year, when we need it most.
But there’s more work to do. Together, we can build a more just, equitable and prosperous future for everyone in our state, so we can all thrive no matter what we look like, where we live, or what’s in our wallets.