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Seattle CEO: Billionaires are obscuring will of voters on taxes, minimum wage

Demonstrators stand together in Seattle in support of an income tax on Seattle's top earners. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Taxing billionaires, raising the minimum wage, and everything in between have been a large part of debates over the course of early 2021 in Washington state. Some argue Washingtonians don’t actually want new taxes on anyone, but Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price believes that might not actually be true.

Seattle CEO: Taxing Washington’s billionaires a ‘simple, obvious solution’

Price, who famously pioneered a $70,000 minimum salary for his Seattle employees in 2015, says billionaires have frequently gamed the system at the expense of workers. That includes pouring money into lobbying for favorable tax shelters, and advocating against things like income and capital gains taxes.

“What a lot of the billionaires do is they put money into an account that they control, that is kind of earmarked for charity, so it’s still their bank account,” Price described. “They still control that money, save a ton of money on taxes through these ways that are not very savory. Then they take a tiny amount of that and give it back for philanthropy.”

“Billionaires are are redistributing money to themselves systemically, and then giving a small amount to create political cover so that they can keep doing it,” he clarified.

On a larger scale, Price describes how billionaires often lobby to members of Congress to “avoid getting policies passed that would keep the American worker in a better position.” He sees a similar situation playing out in Washington, where the state’s Republicans have long fought back against income and capital gains tax proposals.

As KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross pointed out, though, Washington voters have also rejected an income tax on the ballot numerous times. Given that fact, is it safe to say that such taxes are broadly unpopular across the state?

Opinion: History of Washington’s income tax shows why we need it

“I don’t know about that,” Price opined. “Because if it were so unpopular, with the groups funded by the millionaires, and billionaires, and the venture capitalists, would they have needed to be out there advertising and raising money?”

Washington will soon see that debate come to a head, with a capital gains taxed narrowly getting passed by the state Senate over the weekend. It will next head to the state House and, if approved, could also face a court challenge from those claiming it qualifies as an income tax.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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