Capital gains tax is about wealthy paying a fairer share

(The following op-ed was authored by Tom Campion and originally published in The Olympian on April 29, 2015)

When I started my business here in Washington over 36 years ago, I did so for all the reasons people still come here today — an incredible quality of life with access to the great outdoors, an educated and creative workforce and a vibrant, diverse economy. But those foundations are at risk if we don’t pull together to meet our basic needs and obligations, starting with education.

We endured substantial cuts to basic services for seven years because of the recession; it is time to restore funding to regular levels. In fact, the courts are holding us accountable to that obligation, so we need to act. I urge the Legislature to pass the capital gains tax to raise the revenue needed to keep Washington moving forward. When people are educated, healthy and prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, Washington’s economy thrives. That’s good for every business.

Forty-one other states already have a capital gains tax to provide steady funding for critical needs. A bill introduced in the Washington House of Representatives stands to raise $600 million annually, and only the top 1.7 percent of Washingtonians could see any additional taxes. The capital gains tax could only kick in for individuals receiving gains of more than $25,000 per year and couples above $50,000. The other 7 million Washingtonians are protected by some of the strongest exemptions in the nation. This keeps the policy focus where it should be: asking a little bit more from those who have the greatest wealth.

Today, the poorest families in Washington pay up to seven times more in taxes than the wealthiest families do, and middle-class families up to five times more. That isn’t right, fair, nor responsible toward future generations. Gov. Jay Inslee and the House should be commended for their leadership in addressing our budget issues in a fair and responsible way. It is time for the Senate to finish the job and make this investment in our communities.

My company employs 517 Washingtonians who work in 24 stores across the state and our corporate headquarters in Lynnwood. Our future success depends on our ability to point to good schools and an unmatched quality of life to recruit and retain the highest quality workforce. If we don’t meet our obligations to fund education and other key services, that future is in jeopardy.

One of America’s earliest champions for a fair, progressive tax structure was Republican Teddy Roosevelt, a president I admire and appreciate greatly because he helped launch America’s public lands system. At the turn of the 20th century, Teddy was advocating for the wealthiest Americans and corporations to pay their fair share — part of his “Square Deal.” One hundred years later, Washington has a chance to craft a square deal for her citizens and set a stronger course for the next century. Let’s pass the capital gains tax.