A winter view of the Capitol in Olympia, where lawmakers have two weeks left in the legislative session. (Taylor McAvoy/WNPA Olympia Bureau)

A winter view of the Capitol in Olympia, where lawmakers have two weeks left in the legislative session. (Taylor McAvoy/WNPA Olympia Bureau)

At least they agree that property taxes need lowering

Lawmakers are tripping over one another with schemes to roll back the hike they imposed.

OLYMPIA — 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 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

More in Local News

Mel Jennings sits in his structure during a point-in-time count of people facing homelessness in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Mel has had a brain and spinal surgery, and currently has been homeless for a year. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Annual homeless count aims to give snapshot of housing crisis

Volunteers set out into the rain Tuesday to count all the people facing homelessness in central Everett.

Catherine Berwicks loads ballots into a tray after scanning them at the Snohomish County Elections Ballot Processing Center on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 in Everett, Wa.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Lawmakers push to boost voting in county jails across the state

A House bill envisions an approach similar to what’s been happening in the Snohomish County Jail for several years.

Vandalism at Seaview Park on Jan. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Edmonds Police Department)
Police seek suspects in repeated vandalism at Edmonds parks

Vandals have done over $10,000 of damage to parks across the city, including suspected arson and graffiti with hate speech.

One worker looks up from the cargo area as another works in what will be the passenger compartment on one of the first Boeing 787 jets as it stands near completion at the front of the assembly line, Monday, May 19, 2008, in Everett, Wash. The plane, the first new Boeing jet in 14 years, is targeted for power on in June followed by an anticipated first flight sometime late in 2008.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing workers long-exposed to carcinogen far above legal limits

The company confirmed in depositions that parts of its Everett plant still don’t meet 2010 standards.

CarlaRae Arneson, of Lynnwood, grabs a tea press full of fresh tea from Peanut the server robot while dining with her 12-year-old son Levi at Sushi Hana on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. CarlaRae said she and her son used to visit the previous restaurant at Sushi Hana’s location and were excited to try the new business’s food. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Peanut the robot waitress is on a roll at Lynnwood’s Sushi Hana

She’s less RoboCop and more Rosey as she patrols the restaurant, making sure everyone has a drink and good time.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Boeing settles with Everett security guard claiming chemical exposure

Holly Hawthorne was assigned to Building 45-335 at the south end of Paine Field, while employees used aerosolized chemical sprays nearby.

A section of contaminated Wicks tidelands on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Port acquisition marks next step in toxic cleanup on Everett waterfront

Private owners donated land near the contaminated Wicks Tide Flats to the Port of Everett. Cleanup work could begin within the year.

FILE - In this photo taken Oct. 2, 2018, semi-automatic rifles fill a wall at a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee is joining state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to propose limits to magazine capacity and a ban on the sale of assault weapons. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Democrats advance assault weapons ban, new rules for gun buyers

The measures passed a House committee without Republican support. They are part of a broader agenda to curb gun violence.

Herald publisher Rudi Alcott
A note from the publisher

The Daily Herald publisher Rudi Alcott discusses our new publishing schedule and newspaper delivery by mail.

Most Read