Summer Stinson from the Economic Opportunity Institute on Why Washington Needs Progressive Revenue
Release Date: 09/20/2022
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This week on the show, Summer Stinson, Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI), stops by to talk about the amazing work EOI has been doing and the benefits that progressive revenue presents across the state.
Our tax system affects all aspects of life. How we tax income equitably in inequitably, what programs we invest in, have significant impacts on whether individuals and families will struggle or have access to necessary resources. Because of our lack of an income tax and reliance on sales tax, it’s the poorest Washingtonians’ who spend the most of their income on taxes, rather than the richest. Plans for progressive revenue would fix this by creating a tax system that taxes people closest in proportion to their income, instead of levying the same taxes on everyone regardless of their wealth.
For EOI, one of their top priorities for the next legislative session is a wealth tax, a bill for which was introduced by Representative Noel Frame, which would start 1% tax on an individual’s accumulated wealth beyond a certain amount - discussed amounts range from $15 million to $1 billion as amount you can own before having to pay the tax. This 1% tax would only impact a portion of the wealth of a handful, 4,000 to less than a hundred, of Washingtonians, but could fund programs that benefit everyone.
Money earned through a wealth tax could fully fund special education across the state, provide adequate mental health staff for schools, let Washington start to develop guaranteed basic income programs, support people with developmental disabilities, and so much more.
As always, a full text transcript of the show is available below and at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Follow us on Twitter at @HacksWonks. Find the host, Crystal Fincher, on Twitter at @finchfrii and find today’s co-host, Summer Stinson, at @Summer_Stinson. More info is available at officialhacksandwonks.com.
Summer Stinson is a product of public schools from kindergarten to law school. After graduating law school, she clerked for the Honorable Johnnie B. Rawlinson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Summer has over 25 years of experience in human resources and labor, employment, and disability law. Most recently, Summer worked for the Social Security Administration for over a decade where she developed and led national trainings on the Americans with Disabilities Act. She worked pro bono on immigration cases, defended people facing eviction, and wrote numerous pro bono amicus briefs arguing for Washington to amply fund public schools.
In 2015, Summer co-founded Washington’s Paramount Duty (WPD), a non-partisan, grassroots group of over 10,000 parents and allies across Washington advocating to provide every child equitable access to amply funded public schools with new progressive revenue. In 2021, Summer became the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit public policy think tank that uses research, education, and advocacy to advance policies to build an economy that works for everyone.
As EOI Executive Director, Summer is co-leading the Share the Wealth campaign to the legislature for a wealth tax. For too long, Indigineous, Black, and Brown Washingtonians have been paying their share of taxes but not seeing the investments and funding in their communities. It’s time for the very wealthiest Washingtonians — who are primarily white — to pay what they owe so that we can ensure all of our communities have an equal opportunity to send their kids to excellent and well-funded public schools, to put food on the table, and to build a home where their families can live in dignity.
Summer has published in the University of Oregon Labor Education Research Center Monograph and the University of Washington Education Law and Policy Review. Her most treasured accomplishment is being a mom to a Seattle Public Schools high schooler. Summer and her son adopted a rescue black lab from Texas and love taking him for urban and rural hikes in Washington. Summer is also a huge fan of progressive t-shirts, which she wears to walk or lift kettlebells and then sews t-shirt quilts with her favorite t-shirts.
Economic Opportunity Institute:
Keep Our Care Act from ACLU Washington:
Washington State’s Paid Medical Leave program from Economic Opportunity Institute:
“Washington state’s tax system is worsening income inequality” by Melissa Hellmann, Ashley Clarke, & Joe Yerardi from Crosscut:
“Share the Wealth, Washington! A state wealth tax on extreme wealth is the missing link in Washington’s tax code” by Carolyn Brotherton from Economic Opportunity Institute: https://www.opportunityinstitute.org/research/post/share-the-wealth-washington/
“Reykdal calls for WA Legislature to fund free school meals for all” by Jeanie Lindsay from The Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/reykdal-calls-for-wa-legislature-to-fund-free-school-meals-for-all/
“Funding Progressive Services through Progressive Tax Reform” by Economic Opportunity Institute:
[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On the show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show were always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes. Today on the program, I'm thrilled to be joined by Summer Stinson. How are you . Doing?
[00:00:45] Summer Stinson: I'm great. How are you Crystal?
[00:00:47] Crystal Fincher: I'm doing great. And I'm excited to have you on, and I want to tell people who you are, what you've been up to. I'm just gonna read your bio so people understand why I'm excited that you're on. Summer Stinson is a product of public schools from kindergarten to law school. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the honorable Johnnie Rawlinson U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Summer has over 25 years of experience in human resources and labor employment and disability law. Most recently summer worked for the Social Security Administration for over a decade where she developed and led national trainings on the Americans With Disabilities Act. She worked pro bono on immigration cases, defended people facing eviction, and wrote numerous pro bono amicus briefs, arguing for Washington to amply fund public schools. In 2015, summer co-founded Washington's Paramount Duty, a nonpartisan grassroots group of over 10,000 parents and allies across Washington advocating to provide every child equitable access to amply-funded public schools with new progressive revenue. In 2021, Summer became the Executive Director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit public policy think tank that uses research, education, and advocacy to advance policies to build an economy that works for everyone. As EOI Executive Director, Summer's, co-leading the Share The Wealth campaign to the legislature for a wealth tax. For too long, Indigenous, Black, and Brown Washingtonians have been paying their share of taxes, but not seeing the investment in funding in their communities. It's time for the wealthiest Washingtonians, who are primarily white, to pay what they owe so that we can all ensure our communities have an equal opportunity to send their kids to excellent and well-funded public schools to put food on the table and to build a home where their families can live in dignity. Summer's Published in the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center Monograph, and the University of Washington Education Law and Policy Review. Her most treasured accomplishment is being a mom to a Seattle public school's high schooler. Summer and her son adopted a rescue black lab from Texas and love taking him for urban and rural hikes in Washington. Summer's also a huge fan of progressive t-shirts, which she wears to walk or lift kettlebells, and then sews, t-shirts quilts with her favorite t-shirts. That's a lot. You have done a lot, Summer.
[00:03:13] Summer Stinson: I feel like I still haven't done enough. I'm always trying to do more.
[00:03:17] Crystal Fincher: You certainly are working more. Lots of people are familiar with Washington's Paramount Duty. You're one of the co-founders and then served on the board for quite some time. Built such a huge movement that resulted really in the McCleary decision, which is a pretty landmark decision by our Supreme court that finally required our legislature to adequately fund public schools. Forced them to make dramatic improvements from where they were at. Still more improvements necessary. But you have been doing this work for so long, in so many different ways and advocating for a lot of people in a lot of different ways. So one, I was just thrilled when you became the Executive Director of EOI and I'm thrilled at the work that you're doing right now. So I guess, starting out, what got you into this work, what drives you and how did you land at EOI?
[00:04:13] Summer Stinson: Great questions. And actually like what got me into this work was, back in 1990, I was a sophomore at Oregon State University. And we had what was called measure number five down in Oregon, that would completely change our property tax system. And it was pushed by big landlords, especially corporations with lots of land, and it ended up gutting our public school system as well as our university programs. And I helped lead a lot of rallies. We even took over the president's office at Oregon State University. We slept there for the whole evening and had quite a rally in March just to say, "look divesting from the public good so that certain individuals can get tax breaks is or certain corporations, is not what Oregon is about." and unfortunately it passed and Oregon is still facing the ramifications of that decision, of that passage. What happened was that overnight after it passed, tuition doubled at many of the universities. Gonna date myself here, but when I started at Oregon State University, it was, I think, $494 for tuition for a quarter. Not including all the student fees and things like that, but then it doubled. Which still, I think many people today would gladly take a thousand dollars a quarter for tuition. But has just continued to escalate from there. Other things that happened from that were that friends who were in programs such as journalism, or programs such as teaching, all of a sudden the state board of higher education decided that we didn't have the money anymore, oregon didn't have the money anymore, to support degrees at different schools. So that if the University of Oregon already had journalism, there was no way that Oregon State should also have journalism, et cetera. So the degrees were slashed. Like entire degrees and programs were just slashed overnight. And so seeing how that affected people who were at school and the fact that a lot of people had to drop out or take a second job to be able to stay in school, or had to figure out whether to transfer, either to a different school or to a different program, was really my first awakening that taxes matter and actually affect our lives every day. And I think I was 19 years old at the time and it's still true today. We are so affected by our tax system, by the fairness or inequities in our tax system. And it truly does affect us, our children, our neighbors, coworkers, et cetera, every single day. And that is just such a touchpoint for whether we can live happy and healthy lives, is whether we are collecting re revenue equitably and whether we are investing in programs and communities equitably as well.
[00:07:06] Crystal Fincher: And so that's really important work. It does have to do with everything. How does EOI go about advocating for that? And what is everything that the economic opportunity Institute works on?
[00:07:19] Summer Stinson: We work on quite a bit of different things, not just progressive revenue. We also work on healthcare, major things that we have been working on, and this is through - we have this amazing policy team. So when I say we, it truly is we. We have just a tremendous staff, which we are almost gonna be nine here very soon. We have another person joining us at the beginning of October - and so for healthcare, some of the big pushes have been to address the consolidation of hospitals and the consolidation of our healthcare, which is critically important, not just when you look at the cost of healthcare, but also when you look at the healthcare available at certain hospitals. Because not all hospitals, unfortunately, have the same commitment to a woman's health and women's reproductive health, and also a woman's right to choose and to provide abortions whether chosen or whether they're required for the health of the mother. And so that's a very big issue that we have worked on that we have not been able to fully move forward in Washington state, I'm sure it'll be on our agenda again, and has never been more important than since after the Dobbs decision. Also, we are working with many other organizations, including unions and many other nonprofit organizations on capping costs and reducing costs for both pharmaceuticals and also for the medical procedures. Because, as we know, the costs are just continue to escalate and yet we don't see nurses getting paid more. We would think that we'd have a very robust system rather than just profits by hospitals or by providers at this point, but that's unfortunately what we're seeing. For paid family medical leave, which is another one of AOIs huge wins, and that was so important in the state where we were able to get, with many other organizations, paid leave for Washingtonians to care for themselves or their families. And then a very progressive program where it's not just family, that the U.S. government considers you related to, but it's also chosen family, which is very nice and broad, and also really matters to so many people, especially to communities, queer communities, that we can take time off for our chosen family. And we've done a lot of work to make sure that those programs are really accessible right now. Unfortunately, the application is only in English online, which makes no sense in a state like Washington. So that's another thing we're working on, making sure that there's more language accessibility for people who do not speak or write English to be able to apply for these programs that are very important for them to be able to access as well. And then of course, we've worked for a long time now on progressive revenue, which I know we're gonna talk more about as well.
[00:10:09] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And so I do wanna talk about that a little bit more. Progressive revenue is a term that is frequently used among insiders among people doing policy work and political work, but that a lot of people, who aren't super paying attention to things may be real familiar with what that actually is. So what is progressive revenue and why does it matter?
[00:10:33] Summer Stinson: So we are currently, Washington, the most regressive state when it comes to our revenue collection. And again, that sounds, maybe, like a little bit of word salad, but what that means is that we rely on taxes as a percentage of income. We rely on taxes and we more heavily tax the people at the bottom of the earning spectrum. People who are poor, people who are barely making it, working families pay a much higher rate of their earnings than do the really wealthy among us. And in a state like Washington state, where we have almost a hundred billionaires and yet one quarter of our Washingtonians live in poverty, we have just this enormous gap already between the haves and the have nots. But then when you layer our inequitable tax system, regressive tax system, on top of that, where we're taxing the people who are the have nots at the highest rate, it means that we are really unfair in how we're doing this. And let me remind you, we're more unfair than Mississippi, we're more unfair than Texas. We are the most regressive of all 50 states. And this is even after capital gains tax was enacted. We're still the most regressive. It has not changed that. We have not even moved up one number yet. We are still 50th when you look at states in terms of who has the least regressive tax system. We are still number 50. We just have an incredibly unfair tax system.
[00:12:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And that's such a tremendous challenge. And our state, we don't have an income tax. And sometimes people look at that and they think, "oh, so taxes must be really low. There's no income tax. It's a cake walk." It is not a cake walk. And what that means is that instead of people paying proportionally according to what they earn and their ability to pay and a percentage of that, we have sales taxes and use taxes and BNO taxes and fees for everything. And so all of these other taxes are jacked up, but they're not taxes that are in any way correlated with people's income or ability to pay. So we have people at the bottom paying as much. Or more in some cases than people at the top. And it just doesn't make sense. And in an area where the public investments and the public infrastructure that have been provided and, businesses and individuals have been able to reap the benefit of that great public investment, of our great infrastructure, of our educational investments, enrich themselves, and then not continue that cycle of paying back into the system through taxes is just really not working is the bottom line. And we have seen, in many ways, how it doesn't work what are some of the impacts of having such a regressive tax?
[00:13:44] Summer Stinson: And I thank you for laying it out that way, because one of the impacts, if you're gonna take it on a really personal level, is that, if you have, say, a millionaire parent who goes into buy some diapers for their child and they're paying the sales tax and they grab whatever brand of diapers off the shelf, they're paying the same tax for those diapers as a parent who is every single diaper counts, every single dollar counts, and they really need those diapers for their children and they may be working two jobs. And so the fact that the sales tax is not any way an equalizer because yes, you have these two parents who are paying the same amount, no matter what they bring to the table, no matter how much they're counting those dollars for those diapers, trying to make them last. So that's on a personal level, the impact. The impact for our students and for all Washingtonians, especially when you look at our Washingtonians most in need, like our disabled Washingtonians, is that we have cut and cut so many programs that are absolutely needed. We are not even back to most of the spending rates that we had for people very much in need. And for our basics, we are not even back to the spending rates that we had before the recession from 2008 to 2011, which I think was called the Great Recession, which just feels awkward now since we've, had a pandemic since then. But yeah, even in a pandemic, we have not gotten back to those levels because we've also had some infusions from the federal government and also our state government that are not- The investments while they're amazing, just yesterday, Biden had a bill signing, amazing investments, but many of them will tap out. They are investments for a year or two. Examples are the child tax credit that was very popular. Lifted millions of families out of poverty across the entire U.S, and yet, was discontinued at the beginning of this year. Another example is the federal government and state government making sure that all meals at public schools were free, universally free, was another thing that ceased, though Washington state is trying to figure out how to continue to make universal meals at schools still of reality. So even just like where the rubber meets the road, and actually, roads. Let's talk about how many bridges do we talk about need to be fixed? I saw that they're finally doing some testing on the West Seattle Bridge. But then we talk about the Magnolia Bridge and the Ballard Bridge. And just our simple infrastructure, we have not been keeping up with the investments we need and the testing and the reinforcing that we need to be able to continue the society that we already have.
[00:16:37] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. It's so important and so critical. And so, in the state, we've had a lot of conversations about, "okay, so what kind of revenue does that mean?" we just talked about an income tax, but we hear an income tax in our state is unconstitutional. We also hear people trying to characterize lots of different types of wealth taxes as an income tax. So what is actually permissible and what is possible?
[00:17:05] Summer Stinson: So what the Washington state constitution has a ban on is any sort of graduated property tax. So that would mean the more expensive the house, taxing that at a higher rate. Which. I think we should not be having to deal with that constraint of not being able to have a progressive property tax, but unfortunately that would require change from the legislature as well as from our Washingtonians. But what the Supreme Court did in the 1930s cases was say that, income was akin to property, and that because income was property, or so they ruled, and this was a pretty conservative court at the time, they overturned a Washington voter initiative to have a progressive income tax. And so, there's this interpretation from the 1930s Supreme Court, which is now almost a hundred years old, that interpretation that income is property. First of all, there's no prohibition on an income tax anywhere. The only rulings we have are that income is property and therefore it can't be, we couldn't have, a progressive income tax. I do think that it is a great time to challenge that at the Supreme Court level and see if this current Supreme Court would reexamine that, because income is very different than property, as we know. Wealth, property, income, those are all different types of terms. And we could talk about that. So there's no prohibition, but it is also just considered that third rail that a lot of people don't wanna touch in Washington state. And in my thinking, and many others' thinking, is that, "okay, income actually, isn't as progressive." People who are relying on income to work, where they're not making money in their sleep, they're putting their work, their thought, they're writing briefs, working out at a construction site, where they're somehow doing something to be able to earn money that is that is still an exchange.
[00:19:15] Crystal Fincher: So you bring up a good issue here. That's good to talk about. The idea of income versus wealth.
[00:19:22] Summer Stinson: Yes.
[00:19:22] Crystal Fincher: And talking about this, a lot of people are like, "wealth? Does that mean that Ms. Tech executive who is making well into the six figures? Is that who we're talking about?
Are we talking about billionaire? Are we talking about that?" And it really has to do with how are you making your income? What income are you living off of? If you are working and earning a wage, that wage could be minimum wage, that wage could be a really healthy salary. But if you are earning money from working, exchanging your labor, exchanging a service, exchanging your intellect and providing expertise, that's work. That's an income. And that's a completely different conversation than someone who is earning money passively on interest from an investment, on gains from an investment, on other people's work, or collecting wealth from other people. And some people talk about landlords or different things where it's not- you actually aren't working for the money, your money is earning money at that point in time. And you're making money from investments, not necessarily from work that you're doing or expertise that you are providing. Those are two very different things. And really when we're talking about, in Washington, this wealth tax, the number is so large and the amount of people that it covers is such a tiny minuscule percentage, that it's a different thing. How do you view this income versus wealth conversation?
[00:20:58] Summer Stinson: I think, thank you very much for that framing, because I would also add, if you are able to make money in your sleep, if you can collect rent, or if your stocks are continuing to go up, or if you own a business and others are working for you but you are not having to lead that business but you have that investment, you're able to nap or sleep or do other things with your time and you don't have that exchange there. And that is where, when we look at the gap between those haves and have nots, it's not just income, though income is very important, but the wealth gap. The wealth gap is immoral in Washington state. The wealth gap that some people do not have a roof over their heads at all, do not have secure food, are not able to buy their children clothes for school, and yet we have almost a hundred billionaires in our state. Many of them that are on the dared names are on the tip of our tongue. And we could even just start naming them here. And that we have that in Washington state, which is amazing prosperity, but we also have people who, one quarter, who are not sure where their next meal is gonna come from, do not have secure housing are basically living very moment to moment without the support they need and without the programs they need, and without being able to earn the wage that they deserve.
[00:22:28] Crystal Fincher: Yeah. And really just fundamental fairness. Someone who is worth a billion dollars, our a hundred or so billionaires in the state, paying the same amount of tax, basically, same rate as someone who is struggling making a minimum wage at a full time job, trying to support a family, doing the best that they can just is not fair and is illogical. And is counter to the way that we have traditionally done things in the United States and this state also, which I feel like we should talk about more. Right now we're out of balance and people talking about, "hey, let's make our tax system more progressive" are really talking about let's return to the way that it used to be and get closer to that instead of where we have landed where tax rates are so much lower than they have historically been. And we see, societally, the impact of that.
[00:23:29] Summer Stinson: Absolutely. We had two things that we had huge investments in our public infrastructure. We really funded the public good. We had library systems, we've had much stronger transit systems, public transit systems, we have had public schools with many more options. And this is in sometimes just our recent past, not even, in long ago, days, but very recent past. And yet smaller class sizes, et cetera. And yet what we also have is this nonstop chipping away at all the different revenue sources that we used to have. Very über wealthy people used to pay taxes at a much higher rate and still engage in philanthropy on top of that. Philanthropy does not equal taxes. Philanthropy is directed giving. Often it comes with tax breaks. It often comes with lots of strings attached. It often comes with, "hey, think about how I'm thinking," says the rich person, "about class sizes, whether they're important or not. Or school sizes. Or how important types of curriculum are." And yes, I may be thinking of a couple examples here, but, those strings and that investment from philanthropy is not the same as funding our communities. It's not the same as funding our children's future. We should be doing that based on taxes. It should be stable year to year. It should grow year to year. We have seen 10% increase in the CPI, in the inflation, here in Washington state. And yet I bet most workers have not seen a 10% increase in their wages. Schools have not seen a 10% increase in their budgets. We're being asked, essentially, whether it's our family, or our schools, or our transit systems, to do more with less. Which we have also been asked to do that for at least the last 50 years, if not more. And there just comes a point where you cannot do anything with less. There comes a point where you're barely scraping by. I think that the IRS as a institution is a perfect example of that. Where the IRS, people realize now, had been so chronically underfunded and Social Security, those two programs had been so underfunded that we have to take some time and a lot of money to bulk them back up again, just to do the mission that they were asked to do and that we expect them to do.
[00:25:58] Crystal Fincher: Just to maintain a level of service that we're used to from so many of our public institutions. We are just on the heels of the end of a Seattle Public School strikes, the end of strikes in a number of different cities, and things like class sizes we're such a huge issue. They're so much bigger than they used to be. That's an effect of not having adequately funded schools. The size of the supply list that you have to get for your kid when you're sending them to school is now so much longer than it used to be. That's an example of things that used to be publicly funded now being the private responsibility or forced that burden onto private residents, when that used to be something that we all acknowledged was needed by our students. And so clearly schools would provide. Even looking at different programs available in school, different curriculum, different options and electives, that used to help provide a well rounded education, and frankly do a better job, I think, of preparing people for living in the world that they were gonna land in after graduation. Those things are not automatic anymore. And we have to pass a school levy locally or do something else to make up for the funding that used to be provided through taxing people who were very wealthy. Now we stop doing that. We're still taxing people at the bottom of the ladder and in the middle, but we took very high income earners out of the equation. Things like, just seeing the bridge closures that we've had, the kinds of potholes that we've had, managing these wildfires and forest, so many different things that our parents, that even it doesn't even have to be that long ago, just 10 years ago, were normal and standard are now no longer. And then more things are being forced onto private citizens to pay instead of everybody in this community and society. And so it's so important. There are lots of things that have been talked about. An income tax is one thing and one element that's a little bit trickier. But there are other things, like the capital gains tax, that has passed. There are several other types of taxes, a wealth tax proposed by representative Noel Frame, that politically now are more achievable than they have been in decades, really. There's such an increasing acknowledgement by more people in the public, that looking around and saying things are broken, whether it's the inability to address our housing crisis and our affordability crisis, or just provide clean water to all of our communities and our schools, so many different things. What are the options that you're working to, and that look possible in the coming legislative session?
[00:28:56] Summer Stinson: Thank you. That's a great question. We are most focused, our biggest priority is, the wealth tax. And working with Representative Frame and also with Representative My-Linh Thai and Representative April Berg on the wealth tax. So, it was introduced two years ago at a billion dollar threshold, meaning Crystal, your first billion that you have in wealth and my first billion that I have in wealth would be not taxed. Which means-
[00:29:22] Crystal Fincher: Wait, you're not a business hater, an economy hater who wants to take all of my wealth? You don't want my entire- But like, I can have my first billion free is what you're saying?
[00:29:35] Summer Stinson: That we are suggesting to lower that to probably about 50 million, but yes. 50 million or 15 million. Those are pretty high numbers still. And then, even after that, it would only be a 1% tax because it would not be graduated because of the current constitutional prohibition on any sort of progressive property tax. So this would just be a straight 1% on intangible property. So much of our financial system is really now about stocks and bonds and all of these other types of assets, which often if there are stocks and bonds that are traded on wall street, then they're already going to have a worth attached to them. Some types of businesses that are not public might not have a worth and so that they would need to be assessed. But we already all have our houses assessed. We all get that little postcard, for people who are homeowners, get a postcard of how much our house is worth. And people who our homeowners often check out Redfin and Zillow. So the whole assessment of a certain type of wealth is already a really common standard practice, especially when we talk about real property. So when we're talking about intangible property, we would be applying that same appraisal system. That same assessment system. And that the difference between this, a wealth tax, also, and a capital gains tax, is the difference between a real estate tax and a tax when you sell your. So you pay real estate, property tax every single year, whatever you do with that property, but then anytime you sell it, then there's the tax for the exchange of that property. And so the wealth tax would be akin to the yearly property tax. So that would be for people who have intangible property of over 15 million or 50 million, wherever the threshold ends up being in the bill, then for that amount and over, there would be a 1% tax every year annually, that's very similar to our property taxes. Then capital gains tax is for the exchange. When somebody sells a stock or realizes gains, that's when then capital gains tax comes in. So they're different, just as we have different taxes in the real estate world.
[00:31:59] Crystal Fincher: Okay. So we know how to assess this. We know what kind of system this is. We are not recreating the wheel. Many other states do this and taxing wealth is a normal, traditional American thing. As far as how many people this is going to impact, is this really a small percentage of people or are you trying to tax everybody in the state, Summer Stinson? Is this just coming for everybody? What is the deal with who this does impact?
[00:32:29] Summer Stinson: That's a great question who this impacts is just less than a hundred taxpayers if we're at a billion dollar threshold. If we're at a hundred million threshold, it reaches a whole 2,000 taxpayers. And at a 50 million threshold, we are reaching 4,400 taxpayers. And these numbers did come from the Washington Department of Revenue Modeling that they have done this year. So these are very up to date numbers. These come from our Department of Revenue and from the modeling that they've done. And so we are also working on trying to make sure that we set a threshold where we do not get individuals who have most of their wealth held up in a family business, people who are very entrepreneurial and have a family business that maybe doesn't have the same cash flow to be able to pay this. We're not trying to catch up everybody or every type of wealth. We are really trying to get to the absolutely most über wealthy. Which again, even if out of 50 million wealth exemption amount, is 4,400 Washingtonians.
[00:33:33] Crystal Fincher: So out of almost 8 million Washingtonian, 7.8 million residents in the state, we are talking about 2000 people that this impacts. And 2000 of the richest Washingtonians who control just an outsized percentage of the wealth in this state. What is made possible when we do tax the we of the über wealthy? What kinds of things does that buy and enable?
[00:34:05] Summer Stinson: One of the big things, and this was something that we've been pushing a lot already, is actually fully funding special education. And this was something that I've been writing about and talking about and working on with representative Frank Chopp and others before the most recent school strikes that we've seen in different school districts, seattle's as well as others. Because this state does not amply fund education at public schools, but they really do not pay the actual cost of special education even today. They have a very low cap on the number of students, the percentage of students, in each district who can be identified as in need of special education. And they have very outdated, insufficient formulas for figuring out how much each student should receive or how much each district should receive for different students. And especially when we have the mental health issues that we see from the pandemic across the entire country. And as in recently reported, especially depression and anxiety in kids here in Washington state where it's been a larger issue than even in the rest of the country where those rates are increasing really rapidly. We need to have more counselors, nurses, special education supports, social workers, librarians in our schools. We absolutely need that. If we have a true commitment to having culturally responsive and support for students in need, rather than going to heavy discipline measures and wrap around supports, then what we really need is to be able to invest in those. It's hard to tell teachers or administrators that they have to do something with nothing. We really need to be able to support our teachers, our administrators, and also have the proper number of bodies, which is a nurse in every school. The fact that is something that we, that is no longer a given is, really it's bananas. It's unthinkable, truly. There are some schools that only I see a nurse once a week and the state legislature did just invest more in nurses, but it's gonna be over a three year period. And it's a very slow, the investment in nurses and counselors is still, also very slow to build. And we really need to be able to have one in each school. Other things that we need to be able to support is cash for families. There was a great article in the New York times on GBI programs, Guaranteed Basic Income programs and how they, there have been various different pilots around the entire country. We've also had a pilot here in Washington state and the Department of DHS-.
[00:36:45] Crystal Fincher: DSHS.
[00:36:46] Summer Stinson: DSHS, thank you - did a great report on how uplifting that pilot program was. And we need to be able to have the money in Washington state, have the investment to take these pilot programs or trials to scale them up, to make them actually real programs that can help everybody in Washington. GBI is an amazing opportunity for helping Washingtonians most in need and Representative Liz Berry has been sponsoring that bill. Another thing that I think many people don't know is that in Washington state, we do not support people with developmental disabilities nearly as much as we need to. Any sort of support for developmental disabilities means that individuals have to be on a waiting list. Our waiting list. 15,000 people right now in Washington state who are on a waiting list for needed support, just to be able to live their lives and for their families to be able to live their lives with a disabled person in their family. This would be akin to say, going into social security administration and saying, "hey, here's I, I'm trying to get my disability or trying to get my retirement benefits" and somebody basically telling you that somebody else has to go off the list, possibly even die, before you can get your benefits. It is morally reprehensible that we have such a long waiting list for people who need help with their basic daily living. So that's the type of thing that we could fund. All the programs and services needed for those 15,000 people on that waiting list. We could also provide homes for people with disabilities, including mental disabilities. Because many of the people who are most homeless and need a stable roof over their head have disabilities, including mental disabilities. We could also do a lot more recruiting training and retention of our needed workforce, right now, the counselors and the therapists and the public access to the support that they need. Those therapists themselves are often could qualify for housing support because they make so little themselves. Think about that. These are crucial jobs, and yet, just as crucial as safe firefighters, and yet we do not pay these people, a living wage. So there's so many things we can invest in that we absolutely should be investing in because right now, by not taxing, the most wealthy among us, we are leaving severe deficits in places that most need it in our communities that most need it in Washington state.
[00:39:18] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, absolutely. Things from childcare, to the transition to clean and sustainable energy, to managing wildfires. There's so much. If you just think of what is publicly funded, this is what is impacted by the amount of taxes that we collect and then how we distribute them. So it, it is so impactful and so important. If people wanna learn more about the Economic Opportunity Institute or getting involved in movements for progressive revenue, how can they learn more information and get involved?
[00:39:53] Summer Stinson: Thank you. That's a great question. The Economic Opportunity Institute has an entire website with information, including Dr. Carolyn Brotherton, who is our Policy Associate for Progressive Revenue, just wrote an amazing article on Share the Wealth Washington talking about how a Washington state wealth tax on extreme wealth. It's the missing link for Washington's tax code. And there's even interactive charts where you can see who's gonna pay and at what levels and where they reside and whether or not they reside in your legislative district. So you can play around with lots of different things. I will give you a hint about that in that 41st legislative district, which includes Medina and Bellevue and Mercer Island, it does have the most, the highest number of, payers of any legislative district in the state of Washington. So you can go there to our website. Also, people can email me at [email protected] And we always have lots of opportunities for people to learn either about wealth tax, we're gonna be having some sessions coming up about that, we're gonna be putting out some videos that we're working with Fuse on. And we will have a legislative session preview in early January. The first week of January. Because session starts January 9th.
[00:41:11] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. So we will include all of these links in there in our episode notes so you can refer to those, just, wherever you get the show. We will also be paying attention to what candidates on the campaign trail are saying about this issue, all of these issues, and making sure that if this is something that you care about, that the people up for election in your legislative districts are supportive of this. And you should ask them about this and engage with them about this and let them know that it's a priority to you. That's another way that you can help ensure that this winds up on their priority list to tackle in this upcoming legislative session. And for, even people in the County Prosecutors races and County Council races, that they know that progressive revenue is needed in all of our jurisdictions to make sure that we can take care of our entire community in the way that we deserve. And that people in the middle and at the bottom, aren't paying more than their fair share, like that needs to stop. Thank you so much Summer for joining us today. Sincerely appreciate it.
[00:42:24] Summer Stinson: Thank you, Crystal. It's been delightful to spend time with you as always. And thank you so much for inviting me on.
[00:42:32] Crystal Fincher: Excellent. And thank you for everyone for listening. Talk to you soon. Thank you all for listening to Hacks & Wonks. The producer of Hacks and Wonks is Lisl Stadler, our assistant producer is Shannon Cheng and our post-production assistant is Bryce Cannatelli you can find Hacks and Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks, and you can follow me at @finchfrii spelled F I N C H F R I I. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts., just type Hacks & Wonks into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get our Friday almost-live shows and our midweek show delivered right to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave us a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacks&wonks.com and in the episode notes.
Thanks for tuning in. Talk to you next time.