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WA Bill's Tax on Wealthy Would Fund Housing Equity

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A revision to Washington's estate tax would create an equity-in-housing fund. (Eric Fredericks/Flickr)
A revision to Washington's estate tax would create an equity-in-housing fund. (Eric Fredericks/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA - Producer, Contact
February 18, 2021

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington state is home to some of the wealthiest people in the country and it also is facing a housing crisis, so lawmakers may tap some state residents' wealth to address the issue.

Legislators in Olympia are considering a bill which would revise the estate tax.

It would exempt up to $2.5 million in wealth passed on generation to generation but increase it progressively above that to 40% for estates worth more than a billion dollars.

John Burbank, executive director of the Economic Opportunity Institute, said 10% of estate taxes would go to a newly established equity-in-housing fund.

"Which would be targeted specifically to neighborhoods and communities that are experiencing a real hurt in terms of housing," Burbank explained. "And it would be focused on rental assistance and foreclosure prevention for people living in those communities."

House Bill 1465 would also address racial wealth inequities.

It's estimated the revised estate tax would generate an additional $100 million annually.

Opponents argue the economy is too delicate from the pandemic to increase taxes.

Another bill, House Bill 1406, would create a wealth tax, applying a 1% tax on assets such as stocks and bonds valued above one billion dollars.

Washington's billionaires have raked in more than $150 billion since the pandemic began.

Burbank said meanwhile, the state faces a large budget hole from the virus.

"The pandemic sort of emphasizes the very fragility of our public services and the lack of funding for those public services, which was in fact already the case before the pandemic began," Burbank contended.

Burbank noted the tax would generate about $2.5 billion a year, and added Washington needs to provide appropriate public services to help people in need.

"That will decrease the level of poverty, and it will begin to bring our state together in terms of people's incomes and hopes and aspirations and quality of life," Burbank concluded.

Disclosure: The Economic Opportunity Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Early Childhood Education, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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