masked caregiver and client
Caregivers are concerned cuts could affect them as Washington state deals with its budget shortfall from COVID-19.

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- With Washington state facing a big budget shortfall because of COVID-19, many are calling for the state to fix its tax code.

The groups advocating for change contend the state's tax system is "upside down," and the most regressive in the nation.

According to the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state's wealthiest residents pay about 3% of their income in taxes, while the poorest pay nearly 18% of their income.

Melissah Watts, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 775 and an individual parent provider for her son who has special needs, thinks the state needs to find a more stable tax base rather than considering cuts to care providers.

"We need to make sure that we tax big businesses and big income-earners," Watts asserted. "Because our state is one that people can rely on to not have to pay huge taxes, and that's not good for our citizens."

State lawmakers are considering legislation to create a wealth tax, and another bill that would tax capital gains.

Critics pointed out the state Supreme Court has struck down a progressive income-tax system as unconstitutional. Lawmakers also are considering the Working Families Tax Credit.

Watts argued she and other caregivers are the ones who suffer when the economy dips and lawmakers make cutbacks.

"It's just not possible to think that, every time there's a downturn in the economy, you might be losing your house and you and your disabled kid might be under a bridge," Watts emphasized. "That's not a good way to run an economy."

But she believes this time around could be different. Watts noted caregivers have been called heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We need to seize the moment," Watts urged. "As caregivers, we deserve a little extra 'cred' [credit], because we've been keeping the lid on this better than many people expected we could."