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Thursday, April 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion

Guest opinion: Capital gains tax a good idea

Don Barbieri

It’s time for us to have an honest conversation about taxes, our economy, and the future of our state.

Too often, just saying “taxes” creates immediate and fervent opposition. All reason ceases as rhetoric takes over the conversation.

That’s bad news for Spokane and Washington.

It’s true that taxes have a tremendous impact on our state’s economy and well-being – but not in the way you might think if you listen to the political rhetoric. The investments that our state has been able to make in job creation because of tax revenues have allowed Washington to become the state that we all love. Smart, entrepreneurial people build businesses and raise families here in Washington, and they do it because of the natural beauty, the strong communities, and the endless opportunities. None of this would be possible without quality schools, good roads, public safety, and so many other things.

As neighbors in Spokane, as residents of the same state, and as participants in the global economy, we are all linked and our futures depend on one another. We are in this together. Right now, our state is at a crossroads. We must decide what we want our future to look like, and what we are willing to do to get there.

The combination of economic recession and a flawed tax system in our state caused deep and painful cuts to vital services, leading to a declining quality of life for the majority of Washington families.

Four years of devastating economic hardship and over $10 billion in cuts to state services have threatened our economic recovery and the very things that we love about living in Washington.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But to turn things around, we must reform our tax system, which will allow us to create a better life for all of us by investing in our state’s economy and future. We need both short- and long-term solutions, and we need people to stand up for what is right.

One solution is to tax high-end capital gains, the proceeds people make from selling investments. Lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would place a 5 percent tax on profits from selling stocks and other financial assets. To protect the middle class, it exempts the first $10,000 of gains ($5,000 for single filers), and it exempts any gain from selling your primary residence or farmland. The proposal would raise around $700 million every year for good schools, good health and safe neighborhoods.

This proposal would mean no tax increase at all for 97 percent of Washington households. Only the very wealthy would owe any capital gains tax – those who in recent years have gotten the biggest federal tax cuts and seen the greatest rise in their incomes while everyone else fought to stay afloat.

This is not a tax on paychecks; it is a tax on profits.

A tax on capital gains would be easy for taxpayers, and would not require a new state bureaucracy to implement. All information needed to file the tax would be available on Washingtonians’ federal tax returns. And, using federal definitions would make for a low-cost state administrative process. Data from the Department of Revenue shows administrative costs would amount to less than 0.2 percent of total revenue generated by the tax.

My spouse and I would pay this new tax. And we’d be proud to do so.

My money came from working hard, great work associates, and playing by the rules. This state has played a huge role in my personal and financial success, and I cannot just sit by and watch as Washington – this place where I live, work and play and raised my family – starts to fall apart.

I have a duty to recognize that I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, and had the courage to invest in the public good. I have had the advantage of opportunities not offered to others, and it’s my job now to help make Washington a better place for future generations.

There’s nothing partisan or ideological about this. My only motivation is that I live here, I like it here, and I want “here” to be a nice place to live and work for many years to come.

Supporting a fair and reasonable tax on high-end capital gains is one way that I can help make Washington a better place, not just for my kids but for all kids, not just for my future but for everyone’s future.

Don Barbieri is chairman of Red Lion Hotels Corp. and a former Democratic Party candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
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