Dems, Reps want to lower property taxes

Last June, at the end of a gnarly session, lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee boosted the state’s portion of the rate by 30 percent to a flat $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value. It marked the largest one-time rate increase in state history.

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2018 11:24am
  • Opinion
Dems, Reps want to lower property taxes

Funny how things change around here in the turn of a calendar year.

Back on Feb. 16, 2017, I wrote in this space:

“This may surprise you, but one thing legislative leaders and the governor agree on is that new taxes are needed to help cover the state’s unpaid tab for public schools.”

Now, 370 days later, the one thing Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree on is the need to reduce the very tax they wound up increasing.

We’re talking about the property tax. Last June, at the end of a gnarly session, lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee boosted the state’s portion of the rate by 30 percent to a flat $2.70 per $1,000 of assessed value. It marked the largest one-time rate increase in state history.

Since then, Washington’s fit economy seems to have gone on steroids. Monthly tax collections are exceeding forecasts by tens of millions of dollars. Much of this extra revenue is being deposited in reserves that can’t be touched unless a super majority of the Legislature votes to do so.

Which brings us to the present, where lawmakers are literally tripping over one another with schemes to use those reserves to roll back the whopping hike they bravely imposed without a public vote.

Republicans want to do something this year for property owners who were shocked, horrified and enraged by what they saw when their tax bills arrived.

Do not count on them succeeding.

First, it’s a Republican idea and members of the Grand Old Party are in the minority in the House and the Senate.

And it’s not simple to do. Some pay their taxes through their mortgage, others write one check in April, and still others pay it in installments in April and October. The state Department of Revenue and county assessors would need to sort out how to handle each situation.

With only two weeks left in the legislative session, easy is the route the majority party will travel.

Democrats in both the House and Senate want to lower the rate at least in 2019 to somewhere around $2.37 per $1,000 of assessed value. They would buy it down by pulling roughly $400 million from restricted reserves, which is about 25 percent of what is expected to be available in this budget cycle.

But House Democrats want to reset the bar at a lower rate permanently. Their budget extracts $1 billion in reserves to bring it down in 2019 and 2020. Then they want to enact a tax on capital gains and use this stream of revenue to offset the need to allow the property tax rate to return to the current levels.

Getting enough Republican votes to access the reserves for one year of relief shouldn’t be extraordinarily tough. Doing it for two years will be a harder sell, though not impossible. It is an election year and it is hard to imagine many lawmakers in either party want to hit the campaign trail without having done something.

Capital gains is another story. Even if it passes in the House, Republicans and probably some moderate Democrats in the Senate are not likely to embrace it given all the dough piling up in state coffers.

But who knows. No one envisioned that months after their grueling negotiations on increasing the property tax, lawmakers would be debating the best means of bringing it down.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@covingtonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.covingtonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Roe v. Wade and the road we have been down before | Whale’s Tales

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Prohibition Era in… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Here’s a theory on why people embrace all those crazy theories | Whale’s Tales

Not so long ago, one could have called me a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Police misconduct is getting expensive for taxpayers | Roegner

More cities and counties are avoiding trials and settling with the families… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Here’s how we foot the bill for reducing wildfires in WA | Brunell

Thinning public woodlands to remove millions of dead trees is a way… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Did we end the mask mandate too soon in WA? | Roegner

Philadelphia recently became the first U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Never miss a chance to treasure your mama | Whale’s Tales

With the approach of Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking a lot lately… Continue reading

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
New lanes on Highway 18 | Shiers

Cartoon by Frank Shiers Improvements coming to State Route 18 after a… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Could we pull together like the Ukrainians are doing? | Whale’s Tales

The past is like a foreign country — they do things differently… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
U.S. Senate and Washington Legislature are the races to watch | Roegner

There’s a question hanging in the air: Can a Republican U.S. Senate… Continue reading