Democrats push new tax on billionaires
February 18, 2021
OLYMPIA — House Democrats are rallying around a proposal to tax the state’s billionaires.
House Bill 1406 would impose a 1% tax on intangible assets — such as money or stocks — on people whose wealth exceeds $1 billion.
The state Department of Revenue estimates the tax would generate close to $5 billion from 2023-2025 and affect fewer than 100 state residents. Revenue raised would fund tax relief for low-income individuals and contribute to the state general fund.
The lion’s share would come from the state’s most wealthy individuals—such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, who are both worth more than $100 billion.
An analysis of the bill indicated the projected revenue would fall significantly if one or more of the wealthier individuals targeted by the bill moved out of state.
Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, primary sponsor of the bill, said at a hearing Feb. 2 the aim was to shift the tax burden.
“Who should be funding economic recovery?” Frame asked her colleagues at the hearing. “Perhaps, should we ask the wealthiest Washingtonians — many of which happen to be the wealthiest people in the world — to share equitably in the responsibility to recover, rebuild and reimagine our economy.”
The bill drew little opposition, although Republicans suggested the bill could have unintended consequences.
“My concern is that we won’t raise any revenue from this because people will just leave the state,” Rep. Jeremie Dufault, R-Selah, said.
Frame dismissed the idea.
“I think it’s a really pessimistic view of the world to just assume somebody would leave,” she said. “These are folks who are deeply invested in our community, some of which have been outspoken advocates for progressive tax reform for many years.”