Submitted by John C. Alessio.
I decided it was time to find out who my State Treasurer is. After all, he plays a big role in determining how my tax money is invested. Not only that, Duane Davidson, the person currently in that office, does what he can to influence how the Legislature and the Governor spend my money. In other words, he influences state policy decisions. What I have learned is that when Davidson ran for Treasurer, he pledged he would not be involved in state policy issues – sort of like a non-partisan. That didn’t last long. In a speech to the 2019 Solutions Summit, Davidson said he changed his mind after taking office. He decided it was OK for him to be involved in policy. So, he now travels around the state bashing the Governor and the legislature. When he isn’t bashing them, he is trying to tell them what to do.
One of the key issues Davidson likes to talk about is progressive taxes (where the rich pay their fair share by % of wealth). He is against them. He actually promotes regressive taxes as beneficial to the state (lower income = higher % of wealth in taxes, like in sales taxes). It’s the usual bogus trickle-down type argument that basically says what is good for the rich is good for everyone. If we don’t go easy on the rich, they will leave and take their money with them. Sure, there are cases of that happening, but that is not the norm. The primary reason the rich move their big companies is to reduce labor costs. There are many examples of states raising taxes on the rich and large companies not leaving. Wealthy Dayton-Hudson (Target) entrepreneur, Mark Dayton, ran for Governor of Minnesota pledging to tax the rich, which he did. The rich didn’t leave, and Minnesota is now considered the best-run state in the country (usatoday.com).
At the 2019 Solutions Summit, and in a 2019 radio interview with “The Bottom Line” Davidson argued against progressive forms of taxation and defended a state economy based primarily on sales taxes. At the Solutions Summit he stated that WA State Legislators, despite what they say, are not really concerned about the unfairness of regressive taxes for the poor and lower income working people. He said they just want to raise money to spend. Well, yes. Money is needed to run the state’s programs. The question is, how do we obtain those funds? Davidson’s “solution” is to dramatically cut the programs and fund whatever is left with sales taxes – thus, on the backs of the middle class and poor – the same people who will suffer from the cut programs. We’ve done that, and ended up with a lawsuit forcing the state to find a way to appropriately fund its schools. We’re barely out of that woods. Our schools are not where they should be.
Davidson defends his position by saying that most states have a sales tax. That is a bizarre thing to say. Of course they do, but most states also have progressive forms of taxation. WA has the third highest sales tax, and is THE most regressive taxation state in the country. Davidson goes on to claim at the 2019 Solutions Summit, “All the states that don’t have an income tax are the states that are prospering so well right now.” Really? If that is true, how is it that WA ranks 29th for the quality of its schools (wallethub.com), below 37th among states on the four key indicators of road infrastructure (usatoday.com), and 36th in how well low-income people are doing in the state (rewardexpert.com)? The answer is that the bottom 20% of our population pays 17.8% of their income in taxes, the middle 20% pays 11% of their income, and the top 1% of the population pays only 3% of their income in taxes. As stated in a report by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy (Oct. 2018), under regressive taxation “Poor families pay almost eight times more as a share of their incomes in these taxes than the best-off families, and middle-income families pay more than five times the rate of the wealthy.” The report goes on to state that the wealth disparities created by regressive taxes is far worse for people of color, especially Black people. Furthermore, states simply cannot raise enough funds to adequately operate without the wealthy paying their fair share.
The above-mentioned serious problems aren’t the only ones WA has, and WA isn’t the only regressive tax state having them. Seven of the nine states without a progressive means of taxing the rich (including WA) are underfunding their children’s education. They are all ranked below the middle of the states, and most of them are near the bottom. The same could be said of how well these states are doing on most of the important wellness indicators. The absence of true widespread prosperity in areas of notable importance to most state citizens could not be clearer than it is in the nine states that rely almost entirely on regressive taxation (forms of sales taxes).
Of course, that probably doesn’t mean much to Davidson. He seems to be too worried about the rich to think about how the working poor and middle class are struggling. From Davidson’s perspective, if the rich are doing well, so is the state. He argued against the banks having to pay back-taxes. He said it wasn’t fair. It is no coincidence that Davidson recently skipped a State Investment Board meeting to attend a political fundraiser with banking lobbyists. So, why does he travel around the state projecting nonsense about the evils of progressive taxes and the benefits of regressive taxes? It is probably because he is expected to do so by the people who fund his campaigns: the rich. They don’t want to pay their fair share and he does everything he can to make sure they don’t have to. Furthermore, he invests our money into their companies so as to further enrich them and fund his campaigns.
At the same time Davidson complains about the legislature trying to find progressive ways to raise money needed to properly fund our state programs, he complains about the state debt. Of course we have to shift funds around to make ends meet. That is what poverty does. It forces debt. Just ask any low-income person. We are not a poor state, we just act like it. We have wealth in this state that goes untapped because people like Davidson, and other compromised politicians, constantly carry water for the rich. The working people and middle class of this state need to rise up and demand a fairer tax system – whatever legislation it takes to get it. Having listened to Davidson’s speeches and having read numerous related articles, I am disgusted. Duane Davidson is not the people’s State Treasurer. He is the treasurer of the top 1-3%. We don’t really have a State Treasurer. We need to get people like Davidson out of office and support candidates that are truly for the common good – not just for the wealthy and themselves.