I’m a proud member of the Yakama Nation who grew up in the Yakima Valley. I believe that no matter the color of our skin or how much we have in our bank accounts, we all want to take care of ourselves and our loved ones — and leave things better for those who come after us.
While I’m an elected official living in Spokane now, I haven’t forgotten my roots on the Yakama Reservation. Growing up, I knew inherently and through anecdotes: Life on the reservation is simply more difficult because of lack of access to health care, regular doctor and dental visits; underfunded schools; generations of inherited trauma; and a host of other factors.
It wasn’t until my dad landed a good union job that our family’s economic situation became more stable. It laid the groundwork for me to graduate from high school, go on to college and eventually buy my own home. I’m the first in my family to do so. I had to overcome both the odds and the tax code to do so.
By now you may have heard that our tax code is upside down. It means that those who make the least pay the highest percent of their income in state and local taxes, while those who earn the most pay the least. In effect, the wealthy few aren’t paying what they owe.
And for too long, certain politicians, wealthy corporations and special interests who have rigged the rules in their favor have also tried to divide us. They are pushing a narrative that blames everyday people, and especially Indigenous people, People of Color and immigrants, for the hardships that the wealthy few intentionally created. Their aim is to keep us from joining together to demand our shared resources and the programs, schools and supports all of our families need.
Our tax code has kept in place racist and classist systems that disproportionately harm Indigenous, Black and People of Color communities, making it harder for us to build and pass on wealth.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I am a board member of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, an organization that has long been working to create a more just and fair tax code. Last year, we came together to rewrite the rules and remake our tax code. In partnership with a passionate group of advocates, activists and coalition partners, the Budget & Policy Center helped pass a capital gains tax to make sure that those who have done well in Washington do right by Washington.
The capital gains tax is a modest 7% tax on profits over $250,000 from the sale of stocks and bonds. It will affect less than 1% of Washington taxpayers, or about 8,000 people.
The proceeds from the tax — estimated at more than $500 million annually — will be invested in the Education Legacy Trust Account to benefit students, teachers, families, and eventually employers and everyone else in our state.
Unfortunately, a handful of the wealthiest people in our state filed Initiative 1929 to permanently repeal the capital gains tax we fought so hard for and that would be a critical step in balancing our tax code. If you’re asked to sign a petition to put I-1929 on the ballot this fall, consider this: Do Washington’s super-rich deserve a huge tax cut at the expense of the rest of us and our kids?
As the first Native American woman elected to the Spokane School Board, I know how critical funding is for early learning and K-12 education. As a working mom, I’ve experienced how important affordable child care is for parents. Schools and child care would both get a much-needed boost from the capital gains tax.
This is a time to make more investments in kids, help families who need it, and support small businesses that are regaining their footing. It’s a time when we should redouble our efforts to address barriers for Black, brown and Native kids in school, including cultural competencies of curriculum and increasing graduation rates.
It’s a time to come together to make sure the wealthy pay what they truly owe in taxes and demand that our lawmakers rewrite the rules so nothing stands in the way of us providing a great life for our families.