2024 Legislature opens in Olympia – and already there’s talk of a whopping tax increase

Police pursuit initiative will force decision on issue

The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Shelly Short’s subscribers Jan 12, 2024. To subscribe to Sen. Short’s e-newsletters, click here.

Our 2024 legislative session opened Monday with ceremonies in the Senate and House. The session runs 60 days and is set to adjourn by March 7.


Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Wouldn’t you just know it? Our 2024 legislative session is just a few days old, and already our friends from Seattle are pushing a massive increase in property taxes. Not that this should surprise anyone. But it shows how fast things can move in Olympia when we have a short 60-day legislative session.

I’ll tell you more about this enormous property-tax hike in a moment. As your senator from the 7th Legislative District, I send e-newsletters like this one to keep you in the loop on issues of importance to Northeastern and North-Central Washington. In the House, your representatives are Joel Kretz and Jacquelin Maycumber.

Our district covers more territory than any other in the state, all or part of seven counties. I’ve represented our corner of the state since 2009, but if we haven’t bumped into each other yet, small wonder – and greetings!

If you have a comment about specific legislation or state government in general, I want to hear from you. If you have a problem with a state agency, my office stands ready to assist. Please use the contact information below to send an email to me and my legislative assistant, Shannon Whitmore. Or drop a letter in the mail, or give us a call. Our most important duty is to serve you – and we are interested in what you think.

A full plate for a short legislative session

I will be in the middle of the Legislature’s biggest debates, as floor leader for the Senate Republican Caucus.

This is shaping up as a busy session. We can expect the usual wrestling over state spending. Republicans will be focused on the issues that matter most — public safety, keeping Washington affordable, and creating a better future for our children. Our friends in the majority party are talking about raising taxes — they always do. Meanwhile, the people are weighing in with a series of initiatives-to-the-Legislature they want us to consider. And we must deal with all of this in just 60 days.

I should explain. In this state, our Legislature runs on a two-year cycle. Last year, our most important job was to adopt budgets to cover state operating expenses, transportation spending, and long-term capital construction projects. The constitution gives us three-and-a-half months to do that. In even-numbered years like this one, our main job is to make adjustments to those budgets. For that we get two months. The list of issues never gets shorter — just the amount of time we have to deal with them.


Right out of the chute, a proposal for a massive tax increase

Democrat bill allows annual growth in property taxes to triple

One of the worst bills of the last legislative session is back to haunt us again this year. Democrats are getting set to push Senate Bill 5770, which would allow the annual growth in property taxes to triple. This could mean a tax increase as big as $12 billion over the next decade. The burden would just keep growing, year after year.

This bill is set for a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18. You can sign up in advance to register your opinion, submit written testimony, or testify in person or by Zoom.

Right now, increases in property taxes cannot increase more than 1 percent a year unless voters give their approval. Washington voters said yes to this limitation in a 2001 initiative. Six years later, the state Supreme Court threw out the initiative on a technicality. But lawmakers at the time recognized that fast-rising property taxes were a top concern for the people of Washington, and they enacted it as a law.

Since then we have seen a change of attitude among our friends in the majority party. Today they are more interested in the desires of government. They want to raise this limit to 3 percent a year — and let property taxes soar.

Our colleagues say state and local governments need more money. This is hard to say with a straight face when state tax collections have doubled in the last decade, and local government tax collections, on average, have far exceeded inflation. This is a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

Senior citizens and others on fixed incomes worry constantly about being taxed out of their own homes. Our young are being priced out of homeownership. We hear talk from all sides about a housing crisis. Yet our colleagues are talking about raising taxes on homeowners and making housing even less affordable. Does this make any sense to you?


‘Big Six’ initiatives are session’s wild card

Measure restoring police pursuits is first to be placed before Legislature

Since 2018, the Washington Legislature has been under one-party control, and our colleagues have taken it as a mandate. Their “progressive” legislation has driven up our gas prices, increased our taxes and put handcuffs on law enforcement. Now the people are telling us what they think of it, with a series of six initiatives that would repeal the biggest and boldest elements of this agenda.

These measures have been submitted as initiatives to the Legislature, meaning they will be presented to us as legislation once state elections officials certify that a sufficient number of signatures have been submitted. It’s going to take a few weeks for the Secretary of State’s office to finish that job. Under legislative rules, I have to wait for certification before I can discuss specific proposals in an e-newsletter like this one.

The good news is that the first of them has made it past that hurdle. That’s Initiative 2113, which would repeal restrictions on police pursuits adopted by our colleagues in 2021. I strongly opposed these restrictions when they were debated in the Legislature three years ago. Because police were forced to let criminal suspects flee, our crime rate skyrocketed and people died. A bill last year to restore some pursuits didn’t go far enough.

If the Legislature doesn’t pass this measure, it will advance to the ballot in November. The Legislature also has the opportunity to put an alternative proposal on the ballot. But if it comes to this, the Legislature cannot prevent the people from voting on this measure. Thank goodness the people of our state have the right to circulate initiatives and override the Legislature when leaders are stubborn. One way or another, Washington will have a chance to restore good sense to law enforcement.


Senate page opportunities remain open for youths 14 to 16

Do you know a high school student who would be interested in seeing our Legislature at work? The Senate page program offers youths ages 14 to 16 an opportunity to spend a week working at the state Capitol while the Legislature is in session. Senate pages carry messages between offices, spend time on the floor, and learn about the legislative process in a special page school. They earn a paycheck, too. Our office has a number of available slots for the 2024 session, and we encourage eligible students to apply. The last day to apply is Feb. 9. For more information, click here.

Thanks for reading — it is an honor serving you!






Sen. Shelly Short, 7th Legislative District


Contact me!

Telephone: (360) 786-7612

Email: Shelly.Short@leg.wa.gov

Mailing address: P.O. Box 40407/ Olympia, WA/ 98504

Website address: https://shellyshort.src.wastateleg.org/

Legislative Hotline: 1 (800) 562-6000