Like its predecessor Initiative 695, this year’s Initiative 722 bundles different subjects into a single hey-we’re-angry measure. That bundling of issues is forbidden by a long line of state judicial decisions, so it’s almost certain that I-722 would never go into effect even if approved.
So, it can be argued that it would be in taxpayers’ interest to reject the measure. After all, why waste good public money on court and attorney expenses over a sure-to-be-beaten piece of bad legislation?
There’s a much deeper reason to reject I-722, however. Voters should say no to I-722 because it would create an inequitable property tax system.
Fairness is one of the enduring strengths of Washington’s state constitution. No class of property can be subjected to higher or lower rates of taxation than other properties. I-722 would have the effect of shifting tax burdens onto homes and businesses that have seen little or no increase in their property values.
The measure calls for limiting the property tax increases on individual properties to the rate of inflation or 2 percent per year, whichever is less. That’s a bonanza for people in wealthy neighborhoods, where values tend to rise the most. That could make a huge difference in their property taxes over time. The real problem, though, is that tax burdens would be shifted to properties with slower or no appreciation in value. As recent boom markets have shown, those are usually more modest properties.
The effect is so transparently unfair that the courts might well toss out the plan even it were not paired with another issue. But voters should express their opposition to such an ill-disguised giveaway to the wealthy.
I-722 also seeks to repeal some tax and fee increases that were approved in the latter half of 1999. A variety of local governments around the state made those decisions in part because I-695 sought to have every such hike subjected to voter approval. A recent court decision found that I-695’s voting requirement was unconstitutional.
No matter how angry voters are about taxes, this measure provides no acceptable solutions, legally or philosophically.
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