Harris calls for estate-tax increase to pay for boosting teacher pay


Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she would increase the estate tax to pay for her proposal to give teachers a pay raise — becoming the latest 2020 presidential contender to call for raising the tax.

“We will pay for this plan by increasing the estate tax for the top 1 percent of taxpayers and cracking down on loopholes that let the very wealthiest, with estates worth multiple millions or billions of dollars, avoid paying their fair share,” Harris said in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

{mosads}Harris’s campaign said that her teacher-pay proposal would cost the federal government about $315 billion over 10 years. The campaign’s website did not have details on the specifics of the proposed estate-tax increase.

The California senator is one of several Democratic presidential candidates so far to call for an increase in the estate tax.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has called for an expansion of the estate tax that would include a top rate of 77 percent on the value of estates over $1 billion. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has said he would pay for his proposal to create a savings account for every child when they are born by restoring the estate tax’s 2009 parameters. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has proposed lowering the estate-tax threshold and creating more progressive rates in order to pay for her plan to make housing more affordable.

Democrats view an expansion of the estate tax as a way to reduce wealth inequality. But Republicans generally support repealing the estate tax altogether, labeling it the “death tax” and arguing that it hurts small businesses and family farms. 

Republicans didn’t eliminate the estate tax in their 2017 tax-cut law but increased the amount of money that’s exempt from the tax. In 2019, the estate tax exemption level is $11.4 million for an individual, and amounts over that are taxed at a rate of 40 percent.

Harris first called for using federal funds to boost teacher pay over the weekend and on Tuesday provided more details about the proposal. She said the proposal would give the average teacher a raise of $13,500 to close a pay gap between teachers and similar professionals.

The proposal would consist of federal investments as well as incentives for states to provide their own funding to increase teacher pay. It would also include additional investments to further increase teacher pay at high-need schools. Additionally, it calls for the Department of Education to make investments in professional-development programs for teachers, half of which would be dedicated to historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions.

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