Lu Hill: When the ultra-wealthy pay their share in taxes, we all have a brighter future

Lacrecia “Lu” Hill
By Lu Hill The Black Lens

When I look around Spokane, I see that we care about each other. We’re strong and resilient, and we’re also interconnected. We believe in showing up for our loved ones and our community. Regardless of whether our families have been here for generations or have just arrived, we are leaving things better for those who come after us. We believe everyone should have a fair shot at reaching their goals and pursuing their dreams.

I grew up here and I see how far we have come and how the investments we’ve made to help some community members have actually made all of us stronger. I also see how far we have to go.

There are many unmet needs: from affordable housing to mental health care, drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs to air filtration systems that adequately keep school kids safe from smoky air caused by wildfires. We don’t have to choose to fund one essential service at the expense of another. There are enough resources in our state that everyone in every community can have what they need. To do that, we have to keep asking our lawmakers to fix our upside-down tax code and ensure that everyone, especially the very wealthy, pay what they truly owe in taxes.

For too long, the wealthiest Washingtonians have not paid their share toward our public schools, roads, health care and other services. So many of us came together to pass a state capital gains tax as one step toward righting this wrong. Already it’s providing an important down payment for our kids’ future. Proceeds from the tax will be used to fund child care and early learning, and school repair and construction. In its first year the capital gains tax is estimated to be bringing in more than $800 million, almost three times the estimated revenue and a sign of the massive wealth that exists in our state.

I know firsthand how important before- and after-school child care are and what a difference they can make in the lives of working families. As a teen mom, I relied on local, affordable child care to continue my own education. This helped me to become the first generation of my family to earn a college degree.

But while this higher-than-expected capital gains tax funding for child care and education is such good news for kids and families, it doesn’t mean all the needs of our schools are now covered. Schools in eastern Washington and throughout the state are still facing budget crises, as most parents who have been to a recent PTA meeting know all too well.

We can’t continue to allow this to happen. All kids deserve the opportunity to attend schools with ample resources that allow them to learn, grow and thrive. They shouldn’t have to attend schools where critical services like mental health care and after-school programs and basic resources like books and computers are constantly on the chopping block.

As someone who proudly grew up in and attended public school in the Hillyard neighborhood, I know that my education is the foundation of my success. Instead of cycling from one low-paying job to the next and accessing social safety nets throughout my life I have been able to create a stable life for my sons – lives that are full of opportunities for them.

Investing in our schools today is an investment in a healthier future for all of us. All young people should have the chance to reach their full potential and to be socially and emotionally ready to face the world and its challenges. This future for our community isn’t a dream. It can be a reality. We can provide supports for our school kids and for everyone who lives in eastern Washington if we ensure lawmakers keep the needs of actual communities – and not the needs of special interests and some ultra-wealthy people who want to rig the tax code in their favor – top of mind.

Join me and other neighbors in Spokane to keep insisting that our elected leaders fund our futures with more policy changes like a wealth tax, a more progressive estate tax, and other bills under consideration that would make sure the wealthy pay more, just like the rest of us. It’s one of the ways we can continue to demonstrate how much we care about each other and future generations.

Lacrecia “Lu” Hill is a fourth-generation Spokanite who has long been involved in supporting the community in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and small business sectors. She currently is the community engagement and strategy director at Empire Health Foundation. These thoughts are her own.