Instead of promoting opportunity and prosperity for all, our state tax code rewards the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
Six business days.
That’s all the time Washington’s wealthiest residents need to pay their share of state taxes for the entire year. That day is today, Jan. 9.
Working people need more than two months to accomplish the same task.
In a state as prosperous and forward thinking as Washington, this reality is disgraceful. I speak as one of the few Washingtonians who benefits from our broken tax code.
I am a Pacific Northwesterner, born and raised. Living here has taught me to value compassion, learning and community, and for good reason. I benefited tremendously from strong public schools and a well-funded public university. Thanks to my valuable college degree, I began my career at a small tech startup named Microsoft and was fortunate enough to retire in my 30s. Since then, I have lived off investment income, which includes a significant portion as capital gains.
It is deeply troubling to me that I am able to live comfortably on a passive income while millions work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Washington’s tax code is upside-down: While the wealthiest pay less than 3 percent of their income in state and local taxes, middle-income people pay about 10 percent, and those struggling to get by pay up to 17 percent. From our public schools to clean air and water to protecting our climate, we bankroll our state budget on the backs of those who need the most support. This is illogical and cruel.
I love this state, and I believe that together we can accomplish much more. But to do that, we need to reform our tax code, which is a holdover from a different age, written in the 1930s. It is suitable for an agrarian, sales-based economy, not the booming information- and service-based economy we live in today. Our tax code was designed for the short term and hasn’t kept up with the way money flows in our economy. Instead of promoting opportunity and prosperity for all, it rewards the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.
As a child, my family was solidly middle-class. Over the decades, Washington’s tax code has only grown more uneven, with new tax breaks and loopholes for powerful special interests siphoning resources out of communities. Were my parents raising me under Washington’s current tax code, I might not have been able to have that treasured middle-class childhood. This kind of stress means everything to a family: It’s the difference between parents engaging in their children’s education and barely being home; between a nutritious meal and the cheapest option; and between living in comfort and not being able to warm a home.
That’s why I’m passionate about cleaning up our tax code. I worked hard to achieve my prosperity, but I recognize that the system that enabled my success is one that hurts more people than it helps. We have the power to change that system. We can create a tax code that asks everyone, from the top 1 percent to low-wage workers, to chip in their share for the things from which we all benefit. I supported the income-tax initiative in 2010 because it would have begun to level the playing field, but there are also other options: We can end wasteful tax breaks and loopholes that only help big corporations. We can close the tax break on capital gains — as someone who profits from capital gains, I know that my quality of life would not change at all were I asked to pitch in a little more for my community.
The things our communities need to thrive, like education, transportation, parks and libraries, are investments we make together through our taxes. We’re all better off when we all do our part. In the wake of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will devastate millions of working and middle-income Americans, it’s time for Washington to clean up our tax code. We must do everything we can at home to protect what we love about our state and to build a brighter future.