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Seattle think tank floats state capital gains tax

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington voters last year rejected a state income tax on high-wage earners. Now a left-of-center think tank is proposing a tax on investors to help bail out the state budget.

Washington is staring down another $2 billion budget shortfall. Advocates on the left are full of ideas for how to raise new money to prevent additional cuts. Most we’ve heard before, like a temporary sales tax increase.

And now comes a proposal for a state capital gains tax.

Andy Nicholas is with the left-leaning Washington Budget and Policy Center. He says such a tax could raise half-a-billion dollars a year and hit only the top three percent of investment earners annually.

“Ours is a narrow tax on high-end investment activities. We think this is the right approach that would set us on a path toward a more sustainable budget process,” Nicholas said.

Nicholas proposes to exempt the first ten-thousand dollars per couple in gains from stock, bond and vacation home sales. Critics counter that’s still a low threshold that over time would hit more than just the top three percent.

Democrats in the legislature did not have an immediate reaction to the capital gains idea. But they’ve previously said all options should be on the table.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

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Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.