Former PIA Washington Alaska President Dick Fournier.
Legislatures are always seeking ways to raise income to support state governments. Name the state and business is almost always a target. In this case the state is Washington and its governor, Jay Inslee — now a candidate for U.S. President — wants a 9% capital gains tax.
Inslee needs it to support his budget — a budget that includes $52.8 billion in state spending.
Democrats in the Washington Legislature are in agreement with most of the governor’s budget raising proposals including the capital gains tax. For weeks, that has been one of the centers of discussion as Democrats in the House and Senate worked on their own versions of a budget.
Earlier this week one was finally submitted in the Washington House. It calls for $1.4 billion in new revenue. Much of that money will come from 9.9% capital gains tax on the earnings from the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets.
House Democrats have added 0.9% to the governor’s request. The 9.9% comes into play for individuals with taxable incomes of $100,000 or more, and it sits at $200,000 for couples. Members of the House Finance Committee say the tax will only impact 14,000 households.
Among the 14,000 impacted are the independent insurance agents and agencies of PIA Washington/Alaska. The “other assets” part of the equation is the sale of their businesses.
Former PIA Washington/Alaska President Dick Fournier — the head of the Fournier Group — said the independent insurance agents of the PIA, “are among the hardest working people in the state. This is a top-heavy tax that is not fair and that will reduce the value of the business built by hard-working entrepreneurs.”
That comment came earlier this year when he testified at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing on a 9% capital gains tax. Fourier told the committee that hundreds of small businesses will be hurt if the capital gains tax passes.
“For many of us decades of work began small. We worked nights and on weekends, and sometimes seven days a week,” he told committee members. “Our client lists often came from a phone book and we reached them via telephone. As the business grew the plan was to eventually sell and use the profit of that sale for retirement.”
He said a 9% capital gains tax wasn’t factored into his business plan.
PIA Washington Lobbyist Mel Sorensen agrees the 9% tax is oppressive and said it will adversely affect PIA members, many of whom have spent their entire business careers building their business. He pointed out that this tax is “very, very unfair and — in a way — punitive. For many, they have spent their entire professional careers building their businesses. The value in their business is frequently what they plan to rely on for their retirements. It’s simply damaging to expose them to a new 9% capital gains tax.”
It is for those reasons — and others — that the PIA Washington/Alaska opposed the 9% proposal in the Senate and this proposal.
Our opposition faces stiff opposition. Rep. Gael Tarleton is a Democrat and chairs the House Finance Committee. She said the 9.9% capital gains tax is an attempt to bring “tax fairness” to Washington, one of the few states without a personal income tax.
“Wealth continues to concentrate in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals who pay less and less into critical public investments as a proportion of their accumulated wealth,” she said. “This wealth is not generating the revenue we need to serve the interests and needs of 7 1/2 million Washingtonians.”
In an interview earlier this year with Weekly Industry News, Sorensen noted the comments about tax fairness leads to another problem with a capital gains tax. It is based on an income tax system and Washington State’s constitution does not allow one.
“Federal law defines the measure of tax on NET capital gain income,” he said. “Although the Governor's capital gains tax plan may call it an ‘excise tax and ‘for the privilege of selling or exchanging long-term capital assets, or receiving Washington capital gains,’ the departments of revenue for every state with a capital gains tax classify it as an income tax.”
Experts say the tax — if passed and signed by the governor — will undoubtedly end up on court.
Republican Rep. Drew Stokesbary serves on the House Finance Committee. He opposes the idea and says even if the courts make it legal, passing this kind of tax is irresponsible. “If we have a recession coming up, it will be difficult to balance the budget if we're dependent on capital gains as part of state revenues,” he said. “The fact of the matter is we can fund all of our priorities without raising taxes.”
By the way, the House budget exempts retirement accounts, primary residencies and the sale of agricultural and timberlands, cattle, horses and other breeding stock.
The target date for passing the budget and sending it to the Senate is this Friday and if a Senate budget has not been submitted by the time you read this story, you can expect one very soon.
Source links: Weekly Industry News — link 1, link 2, The Tri-City Herald