It’s been a rollercoaster of a summer, Washington.
It started off with a bang. In June, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Washington Legislature had finally achieved its paramount duty: an adequate investment in world class public schools for all our kids. The same month, the Seattle City Council repealed their Employee Hours Tax on big businesses, a solution intended to raise resources for the region’s homelessness crisis. Wildfires raged from all sides, coating much of the Pacific Northwest in a smoky haze. King County Metro was named the best large transportation system in the country. Hearts broke across the state as orca mother Tahlequah mourned her dead calf. In August, Washington was ranked as one of the best states in the union for workers. The same week, thousands of teachers in Southwest Washington went on strike.
Many of these events represent a crossroads in Washington’s journey forward. Our victories are affirmations of what sets us apart as a national leader for progress. But our challenges can’t be ignored -- we need to listen.
Although the McCleary case has come to a close, we’re not yet done fighting for our public schools--opportunity gap, anyone? We can create world-class public schools for all our kids, no matter their race, language, or zip code. But until we clean up our upside-down tax code, we won’t realize that vision.
Growing wildfires and the death of an orca calf are the direct results of climate change. This is hour zero: Washington must take action to protect our home for generations to come. That means investing more in research and conservation efforts.
The repeal of the employee hours tax in Seattle was due in part to a vicious attack from powerful special interests who dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into a smear campaign to keep Washingtonians sleeping outside. With each passing year, our state’s homelessness crisis grows, and more and more of our neighbors lose their lives while living unsheltered. We can’t let the wealthy and powerful continue manipulate our tax code for themselves as Washingtonians suffer.
Here’s the truth: thanks to our upside-down tax code and its hundreds of wasteful tax breaks for powerful special interests, we don’t have the resources to take care of the basics and build a brighter future. The way we raise revenue asks those with the least to pay up to 17% of their income in taxes while the wealthiest pay less than 3%. On top of that, powerful special interests have rammed the tax code full of wasteful tax breaks for big business that drain resources out of our communities and into their pockets. The result is an inequitable, inadequate budget that prevents our state from achieving all the things we could otherwise.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Our taxes are a shared investment in the things that make Washington our home. All of us, including millionaires and billionaires, are better off when we all chip in our share. Despite our unprecedented economic boom, state revenue is actually below recession levels when adjusted for growth. With one of the fastest growing economies in the country, the time is ripe for us to balance our tax code so it works for everyone, not just powerful special interests and the wealthy. We can do that by cleaning up Washington’s tax code -- ending special deals for corporations and the very wealthy and seeking out more equitable solutions for low- and middle-income households.
We all have an opportunity to make our voices heard. With the primaries around the corner and bright minds throughout the state gearing up for legislative session, we need to work together now to finally solve our state’s biggest problem. Contact your local legislators and urge them to support a tax code that works for everyone. Talk to your friends and family, who likely feel the weight of the upside-down tax code, but don’t realize just how much the very wealthy are getting away with. No matter who you are, rich or poor, Seattle, Spokane, or Sequim, our tax code threatens our future. It’s time to change that.