Testimony by Peter Bohmer to Olympia City Council, July 12, 2016 in favor of Opportunity for Olympia Proposal!
Olympia has a chance to stand up and take a step towards the right to education for all, paid for by those who have benefited by the obscene growth of the inequality of income and wealth. Almost all of the gains in income since the supposed end of the great recession in 2009 have gone to the top 3%, approximately the percentage of households who would pay this tax.
In fall, 1987, I moved to Olympia to teach Economics and public administration at The Evergreen State College. Tuition and fees that year were $1272 for in-state students. For the coming year, 2016-2017, tuition and fees at Evergreen are $7500 a year, six times more than 1987. Tuition has risen many more times than wages. The minimum wage was $3.35/hr in 1987; in 2016 it is $9.47 an hour. The minimum wage has gone up by 180% since 1987while tuition has grown at almost three times the rate of the minimum wage. This increase in tuition is true for all of higher education. Students are being priced out of higher education. Passing this proposal will begin to reverse this growing lack of affordability.
The right to college is a necessity today, not a luxury. High school became a necessity for most jobs, 100 years ago, as college is today. Having more people being able to attend college is not only a question of fairness but will also increase their productivity and incomes which will decrease poverty and increase spending and employment here. Increasing access to higher education will also make for more informed citizens and a better Olympia. College education is a basic right today, as higher education became that in the past and was free.
The cost of this proposed tax to the top 3% of the income ladder is minimal Any household making up to $200,000 will not pay any additional taxes. For example, a household making $250,000 a year will pay a 1.5% income tax, only on their income above $200,000, or 1.5% of $50,000 = $750 a year. That is not much of a burden; much less than their gains in income over the last seven years.
I urge you to pass this modest proposal of a 1.5% tax on incomes over $200,000 to fund students going past high school. Rather than waiting for change at the federal or even state level, let us support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal, maybe with the small change of using federal income tax returns to measure income. We can and should take an important step here in Olympia for fairness and increased access to higher education. This will be leading by example, which is likely to spread to others places in Washington State and then nationally. We need this type of change at the national level but tactically, we are more likely to be successful by starting locally. Be courageous! It is urgent that you take a stand, a step towards education for all, paid for by a fairer tax system. Let us start with the Olympia City Council. Thank you!
Postscript-The Olympia City Council, taking the side of the wealthy, voted on July 12, 2016 against supporting this proposal or passing an alternative proposal that would have taxed higher income people to support students who want to go to college. Let us actively support this Opportunity for Olympia proposal and vote for it in the November 2016 election!