POINT OF VIEW: To save family farms like mine, pass capital gains as emergency measure

  • Sunday, March 14, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion
Paul Hansen

Paul Hansen

THE PANDEMIC HIT Washington hard. The economic collapse that arrived with it has also taken a huge toll on our state, with small businesses and family farms like mine closing, savings accounts running dry and one quarter of all children going hungry every week.

We’re doing what we can to wipe out coronavirus in Washington, but we also need to address the economic impact of coronavirus.

That’s why I support Senate Bill 5096, a wealth tax on the capital gains profits of the wealthiest Washingtonians, and applaud our own Sen. Kevin Van De Wege and others for passing it out of the Senate last weekend.

Now it’s absolutely critical legislators pass a wealth tax on capital gains like the emergency measure it is.

When the House takes up the bill, representatives should attach an emergency clause to it that will ensure it can take effect right away and send it back to the Senate for a final vote, and I urge Sen. Van De Wege and others to support it.

Pass SB 5096 like this is an emergency because for millions of families, small business owners and farmers like me, it is.

Let’s be clear: 99 percent of all Washingtonians won’t pay a penny. It doesn’t apply to your retirement funds, the sale of homes or your small family-owned business or the operations of the family farm my wife and I own.

It’s targeted to the extraordinary profits about 8,000 wealthy people in a state of 7.6 million make from the sale of stocks, bonds and other lucrative assets. It will exclusively affect a handful of Washington households who make six-figure profits from these kinds of transactions in a single year — and it won’t affect their day-to-day lives one bit.

But passing it will put Washington on the road to recovery.

The wealth tax on capital gains will allow us to get cash directly into the hands of the people and small business owners who need it most — the ones who have been hit the hardest. And that’s great economic news for everyone.

This is not a radical proposal: 41 other states tax the capital gains profits of wealthy residents. And SB 5096 will go a long way toward fixing Washington’s upside-down tax structure, where the poorest households carry nearly six times the tax burden of the most affluent households.

You might remember the slow recovery Washington faced after the Great Recession. At the time, leaders responded to the recession by slashing budgets, laying off state employees, trying to divine revenue forecasts and waiting for large corporations to get the economy back on track. Turns out, that’s the worst thing they could have done because wealthy people and corporations aren’t the real job creators — we are.

This time, we need to put cash in the pockets of people who need it most as soon as possible. Those people will immediately spend that money in their communities. That spending will benefit neighborhood businesses like mine, creating jobs and further increasing spending, which will supercharge Washington’s recovery.

Recent polls show 59 percent of Washington voters approve a capital gains wealth tax. I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw 59 percent of voters agree on anything.

But though there aren’t as many of them, the voices opposing SB 5096 are very loud. Some of them are wealthy people who refuse to accept the idea that living in a society means being a responsible neighbor and kicking in. A few of them are lobbyists speaking on behalf of their rich clients. There’s nothing new about any of that.

But what I can’t stand is opponents spreading false information about what a wealth tax on capital gains would mean. They claim it will shutter family farms like mine and hurt low-income Washingtonians who are already suffering. With all due respect, that’s just bunk.

My wife and I own a family farm. It’s nothing much — just 50 head of sheep — but we’re proud of it. As retirees, we’re lucky if we make $20,000 a year. And while we’re proud to pay taxes that keep our infrastructure running and our schools open, the fact is we won’t pay a penny toward this tax — and unless you make more than $250,000 in profits per year in Wall Street windfalls or transactions on other lucrative assets, neither will you.

For too long, the well-off and corporations have hidden behind family farmers, small business owners and other regular folks as an excuse to keep Washington’s tax code upside-down and advantage the wealthy.

No more.

It’s time for a small handful of Washington’s wealthiest to step up and help us rebuild our economy so it works for everyone — not just the privileged few.


Paul Hansen and Deborah Keeting-Hansen own Ninna’s Barn in Sequim.

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