More money, fewer problems
The Washington state Supreme Court ruled on March 24 that a capital gains tax passed by the legislature in 2021 is constitutional, paving the way for hundreds of millions of dollars for early education and child care programs.
The tax was challenged by two groups of individuals who argued that the tax violated the Washington state constitution because it was an unequal tax on property. Taxes on property have to be uniform under a state Supreme Court decision from the 1930s.
Justices held that the 7 percent tax on asset sales exceeding $250,000 was actually an excise tax, allowing the tax to go forward. It’s expected to raise nearly $500 million a year, money that will take the burden off of low-income families who will access the services.
Groups in favor of progressive revenue cheered the decision, calling it a victory in a state that has one of the most regressive tax codes in the country.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is a victory for Washington’s future. Advocates fought for this smart, commonsense policy for more than a decade because we know how essential it is that our tax code advances racial and economic justice,” said Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Budget and Policy Center, in a release.
Not everyone was thrilled with the decision, however.
The Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, published a release calling the decision “terrible” and said that it represented a break from precedent.
“Today’s ruling is unreal,” said the center’s Government Reform Director Jason Mercier in a statement. “The State supreme court agreed with lawmakers that Washington has discovered the first standalone excise tax on capital gains income on the planet.”
Another death in the jail
A 58-year-old woman was found dead in King County Jail on March 21, four days after she was booked on a burglary charge. Fourteen other people have died in King County Jail custody since 2019.
According to the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, the woman was the only occupant of the cell and had been seen alive an hour previous. The Medical Examiner’s Office was expected to conduct a review to determine cause of death.
The conditions at the King County Jail facility in Seattle have caused calls for its closure from prison abolitionists and elicited complaints from the Correctional Officers Guild. The former have asked for its closure, in keeping with promises by King County Executive Dow Constantine to shutter the facility by 2025. The latter say that, while they support the closure of the jail, it must be met with plans for a new facility.
Read more of the Mar. 29-April 4, 2023 issue.