Comment: Wealth tax would bring equity, revenue to aid families

State legislation to tax wealth of more than $250 million could support meaningful programs.

By Adaora Ugwueze / For The Herald

During middle school, I moved from an underfunded school system to a very wealthy community in the suburbs.

My old school kept us in an overcrowded building that had not been refurbished since the 1970s, only offered one language choice, and served refried beans to us as lunch. My new school had an elevator, three different language class options, and nourishing school lunches; we even had pho for lunch one day. I remember thinking, “these children are being given the times of their lives!” It was my first glimpse at how different education can look when rich parents’ taxes are funding our services.

Unfortunately, the rich people in our state rarely distribute their wealth beyond their insular communities. This year, we have a chance to change that.

Senate Bill 5486 and its companion, House Bill 1473, would create a wealth tax in Washington; a 1 percent tax on those who are hoarding more than $250 million in financial property, such as stocks and bonds. This small tax on only the wealthiest Washingtonians would raise more than $3 billion a year to fund education, as well as disability services, affordable housing and tax credits for working families.

As a young, Black woman learning to navigate the world of Washington advocacy, I encounter many people in my communities who do not understand the importance of how we tax and fund our programs. How do you even visualize having $250 million or more in assets?

The bottom line is this: the ultra-wealthy are ripping us off. Even though they have unimaginable wealth, the crazy-rich people of Washington pay a much smaller share (about six times less) of their incomes into the taxes that fund our schools and communities. Because we have this tax inequality, we are being robbed of an alternate reality where it is possible to achieve wealth equity, a good quality of life and happiness for everyone.

Before I began my current role with the advocacy group Washington Bus, I was an intern at TeamChild, which helps youth from lower economic backgrounds get access to legal representation and pursue their education. Our current education system fails many of these students, and they end up in the school-to-prison pipeline, especially if they are Black, brown, or disabled.

An increase in revenue of $3 billion every year from the wealth tax would make an immeasurable difference. If these children could have the same resources as children from privileged backgrounds, every one of them could excel at school and get the services we all need to focus on our studies. It would help families as well; a lot of working class parents are facing pressure from many fronts, and do not have the resources to advocate for children at school.

A wealth tax could change life right now for me and a lot of people in my community. As a student, I know that college is unaffordable for most, and cost of living is rising and rising. For many of us students, it’s becoming hard to predict whether we are going to have housing in the next month. Multiple friends of mine have faced the possibility of living in their cars after being kicked out by their parents or facing issues at home.

That $3 billion could solve so many of these struggles we are facing. Immigrant parents like mine want to take care of their children and secure housing. College students want to achieve our goals and dreams without a life of debt. Disabled people want to finally get the accessibility they need.

As young people, we need to be aware that we are going to be the most affected by the injustice now. And as young people, change will be ushered in by us, as it’s been throughout history.

Not understanding how to make a change can rob you of the political power you have. Getting involved in legislative action is so easy; all you have to do is look up the bill number and take 10 seconds to email your state legislators or talk to them directly.

No matter how shielded you think you are from the effects, every student who has attended school, tried to find housing or depended on a public service is going to be affected by the decisions we make now. If we want a brighter day for tomorrow, we need to join in together on this action.

Adaora Ugwueze is an advocate for racial and economic justice at The Washington Bus and a student studying global and regional studies at the University of Washington. Ugwueze lives in Bothell.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Phlebotomist Heather Evans preps JaNeen Aagaard a donation at Bloodworks NW Friday afternoon in Everett at July 3o, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Editorial: Get back in (or start) your habit of giving blood

The pandemic’s effects and fewer younger donors too often leave blood supplies dangerously low.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, June 8

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Lummi Tribal members Ellie Kinley, left, and Raynell Morris, president and vice president of the non-profit Sacred Lands Conservancy known as Sacred Sea, lead a prayer for the repatriation of southern resident orca Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut — who has lived and performed at the Miami Seaquarium for over 50 years — to her home waters of the Salish Sea at a gathering Sunday, March 20, 2022, at the sacred site of Cherry Point in Whatcom County, Wash.

The Bellingham Herald
Editorial: What it will require to bring Tokitae home

Bringing home the last captive orca requires expanded efforts to restore the killer whales’ habitat.

A map of the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Set your muscle memory for work zone speed cameras

Starting next summer, not slowing down in highway work zones can result in a $500 fine.

File - A teenager holds her phone as she sits for a portrait near her home in Illinois, on Friday, March 24, 2023. The U.S. Surgeon General is warning there is not enough evidence to show that social media is safe for young people — and is calling on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take "immediate action to protect kids now." (AP Photo Erin Hooley, File)
Editorial: Warning label on social media not enough for kids

The U.S. surgeon general has outlined tasks for parents, officials and social media companies.

Comment: After LIV-PGA merger, Saudis are just getting started

The money from their wealth fund may prove irresistible to other sports organizations in the U.S.

Comment: Feuding Russian forces point to problems for Putin

Infighting among Russia units, mercenaries and irregulars raises doubts amid Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Comment: We should worry more about AI’s creators than AI itself

Their warnings of an ‘extinction threat’ are part marketing tool and part effort to avoid scrutiny.

Comment: Expect battles as Oklahoma lowers church-state wall

State funding of a Catholic school may require the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the establishment clause.

Most Read