Wilson ready to fight wealth tax proposal

State Democratic lawmakers on Thursday rolled out a proposal to create a state wealth tax on financial assets above $250 million. The tax would add an estimated $3 billion to the state’s coffers. According to one of the bill’s sponsors, state Sen. Noel Frame, two-thirds of Democratic lawmakers are ready to back the proposal.

Not surprisingly, Republican lawmakers aren’t buying into the new tax saying it is the last thing the state needs. Among the most vocal opponents is state Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, who is the ranking member on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“On the surface this may have a Robin Hood kind of appeal, but that’s just not enough to make it a good idea. The sponsors know this is constitutionally questionable but are charging ahead anyway,” Wilson said in a press release Thursday. “It’s how the state income tax was adopted: push the tax through and cross your fingers that the judicial branch will ultimately come to your rescue.”

Wilson also said Washington needs less legislating from the bench and more willingness to listen to the people.

The longtime legislator noted the wealth tax was not among the list of tax options recently recommended to the legislature by the bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group.

“You wonder why the Democratic chair of that work group decided to introduce the Senate version of this bill, even though her colleagues on the work group decided the idea wasn’t worth further consideration,” Wilson said in the release.

Rather than imposing a wealth tax, Republicans have been calling for the legislature to spends some of the state’s budget reserves to provide tax relief to residents. The state currently estimates its reserves at $6 billion.

“A lot of good can be done with even a portion of what’s left. The Robin Hood angle falls apart completely when you see the revenue from this tax is aimed at growing government, with no promise of any real tax relief” Wilson said.

Democrats argue a wealth tax would be the next step towards needed tax reform. Frame call the proposed legislation a “commonsense bill” that ensures the state’s richest residents pay taxes like everyone else. Proceeds from the tax would go to education, housing, disability services, and tax credits for working families.

But Wilson said if Democrats really want to help the state’s middle- and low-income families there are better options.

“Let’s keep in mind these Democrats just last year refused to join with Republicans on two pieces of progressive tax reform – one to lower the state sales tax, the second being my bill to offer a property-tax exemption that would have benefited owners of lower-value property more,” she said in the press release.

Frame’s bill, SB 5486, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee on Friday but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

— Shari Phiel

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