In Washington state, some rich say 'tax us'

Some wealthy men debated Monday over whether the rich should give Washington state government more money.

Tax us, Bill Gates Sr. and Nick Hanauer said.

“Nothing bad will happen to you as a consequence of me paying a couple, three, four million more in tax,” said Hanauer, a venture capitalist. “I won’t cut back on the number of homes I own. I won’t cut back on the number of investments I make. I probably won’t even cut back on the number of hours I fly in my very own airplane.”

Gates, father of the Microsoft co-founder, and Hanauer are among the biggest contributors to the campaign for Initiative 1098, which asks voters to set up a tax on high earners that would be Washington’s first income tax. The measure would lower property taxes and business taxes if it passes Nov. 2, but still raise more than $2 billion a year after 2012 that would go to state education and health care programs.

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and venture capitalist Matt McIlwain, who are working to defeat I-1098, sat next to the pair at the debate that drew enough interest to bring nearly 300 people, and television cameras from CBS’ “60 Minutes,” to the University of Washington Tacoma.

The tax would affect only high incomes, but the two sides sparred over whether the state Legislature would change the measure, as it can do as early as two years after an initiative passes, to expand the tax to everyone.

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