Kytlan Morgan. Courtesy photo.

By Kytlan Morgan, Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS)

When I think about wealth inequality, I think of my mom, who first came to America a couple decades ago from the Philippines. As she began the multi-year struggle for citizenship, she didn’t have a social network in the States to rely on for financial assistance and had to work long hours to keep up with the bills. 

Most immigrants’ lives look like hers at the beginning, isolated and completely depending on ourselves to get basic necessities like food and housing. It doesn’t make sense for someone in that situation to pay a higher share of their income in taxes than those who are making millions and billions of dollars. 

At Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), I advocate for state legislation that directly affects Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities. One of the most important bills this year, SB 5486/HB 1473, would create a wealth tax in Washington – a one percent tax on people who are hoarding more than $250 million in financial property like stocks and bonds. This tax would raise more than $3 billion a year to pay for disability services, education, housing, and tax credits for working families.

Through this tax, Washington state’s legislators can take a step towards fixing a system that the wealthiest have rigged against us. Low-income families are paying 18% of their income in taxes, while the high income people get away with paying just 3%. Since wealthy people are not paying what they truly owe into our shared communities, affordable housing programs and other tax-funded services that support immigrants are woefully underfunded and cannot help enough people. 

At ACRS, we know that immigrants are the ones most impacted when our programs don’t have adequate support. If we got the needed funds from people who actually have the money, it could transform life for those who struggle the most, like people with disabilities, working immigrants pursuing an education, and people experiencing homelessness.

During my time volunteering at ROOTS, one of Seattle’s young adult homeless shelters, I worked closely with people my age who had lived on the streets with no financial assistance. A lot of guests had big hopes and dreams that they could not pursue because they were worrying about where they are going to sleep next or where they are going to get food. 

One of the guests I talked to regularly loved drawing in his free time. He made fantastic cartoon characters, using just his phone’s drawing applications, and was brimming over with artistic talent. But like most of the guests at ROOTS, he could not afford proper training at one of Seattle’s amazing art schools, and struggled to find other opportunities that might allow him access to higher education and job training. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. The money from the wealth tax could fund affordable housing to allow students a chance to attend school without housing insecurity. It would also go to a fund that supports K-12 schools and improves access to higher education, helping students attend community college and pursue their dreams. A wealth tax could transform life for so many people my age and future generations.

The way our tax code works can be confusing at first, but it’s important that young people and members of immigrant families learn about the implications on our community. If you care about the working people who have been suffering for many years, please tell your lawmakers to support SB 5486/HB 1473. The wealth tax is just the first step we need to make sure our state becomes a place where everyone can thrive.

Kytlan Morgan advocates to dismantle systemic inequities that affect Asian and Pacific Islander communities as a policy fellow with Asian Counseling and Referral Service. She is a recent graduate of the University of Washington-Seattle, with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health-Global Health.

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