During a press conference yesterday, Governor Inslee expressed frustration over a lack of progress in the legislative budget negotiations. He also expressed frustration with a loophole in the state’s estate tax.
In 2006, Initiative 920 was an attempt to roll-back the estate tax. It failed by 66 percent of the vote. Voters chose to support public education with resources provided with the estate tax.
A recent Washington Supreme Court decision created a loophole in Washington state’s estate tax. It allows wealthy married couples to avoid paying estate taxes. According to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, the court decision is projected to cost Washington state $160 million in the coming 2013-15 budget cycle,
HB 2064, which the League of Education Voters supports, reaffirms the public’s will to support public education through the estate tax. We must ensure our schools have ample, equitable and stable funding. We cannot meet the stability requirement of our Constitution if we allow the resources needed to fund our schools to be lost for no good reason.
Washington state has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The estate tax, which applies to less than 1 percent of the wealthiest families, is one of our few progressive taxes. It is an equitable, targeted revenue source that the people of the State support. Over ninety-nine percent of estates, including all family farms and most small businesses, pay no estate tax.
The intent of the original estate tax law and the support of the voters were clear. The resources garnered by the estate tax are to be dedicated to education. Taking these dedicated funds away because of a legal technicality is not good policy, does not reflect the public will and is not reflective of stable and rational approach to governing our state.