State tax on ultra-rich proposed by South Bay assemblyman

A state assemblymember from the South Bay on Monday announced a proposed tax on the ultra-rich that he said would be decided by California voters in 2022 if the state Legislature approves putting it on the ballot.

Assemblyman Alex Lee, D-San Jose, joined other state legislators and advocates to announce the plan to impose a 1 percent annual tax on net household wealth of more than $50 million and an additional 0.5 percent on household wealth of more than $1 billion.

Two-thirds votes from both houses of the Legislature would be required to put it on the ballot in 2022, and a simple majority of the state’s voters would then be needed to approve it, according to Lee.

The plan mirrors national efforts by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and other members of Congress who earlier this month proposed the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, which would impose a 2 percent annual tax on the net worth of households and trusts above $50 million, with a 1 percent surtax on the net worth of those above $1 billion.

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

“We need sizable reinvestments to our community from those who aren’t paying their fair share,” Lee said at a briefing Monday with fellow state Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, and Luz Rivas, D-Arleta, and advocates for the wealth tax, including the California Federation of Teachers.

Lee acknowledged that a previous wealth tax proposal, Assembly Bill 2088, by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and others failed in the Legislature last year, with critics saying it would impose taxes on people even years after they left the state.

The Bay Area Council, a regional business advocacy group, condemned Lee’s proposal in a statement Monday.

“Jobs and investors are already fleeing the state’s onerously high taxes, unaffordable housing, rampant homelessness and excessive regulations. Other states that smell California’s economic vulnerability are licking their chops at the sight of reckless legislation like this,” the Bay Area Council said.

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