Red alert for Washington: Suspicious timing shows us this is serious
Note: The following e-newsletter was sent to Sen. Shelly Short’s subscribers April 12, 2023. To subscribe to Sen. Short’s e-newsletters, click here.
Dear friends and neighbors,
Your property taxes increase every year. How would you like it if they grew three times faster?
Over the last 24 hours, that has become a frightening prospect in Olympia.
Our Democratic colleagues are making a last-minute push for an enormous increase in property taxes. It’s time for Washington to go on alert – these things really do happen at the Capitol, I am sorry to report.
Yesterday, Senate Democrats introduced a bill that would make an important technical change in the way property taxes are calculated from one year to the next. Senate Bill 5770 would allow state and local property taxes to grow at triple the rate they do at present. Right now the limit is one percent a year. This bill would allow property taxes to increase at 3 percent a year.
This means property taxes could increase statewide by about $3 billion by 2027. The proposal has left many of us reeling – not just about the size of the increase, but also the tactics that have been employed to push it through at the last possible moment.
This proposal would hurt those who can afford it the least. It would hurt the elderly and the retired, especially those who may not qualify for senior citizen tax exemptions. It would make it harder for working families to maintain their homes. It would make it harder for our youth to buy homes. Given all the work we have done this session to increase affordable housing and reduce the burden of state regulation, this proposal is a disgrace.
This proposal is the last thing we should be considering. It is government greed at its worst.
This bill is sponsored by 20 of 29 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus – enough to demonstrate this is a serious proposal. Our colleagues hold the majorities in the House and Senate, and have the votes to pass it, if they wish.
A transparent tactic
If our colleagues had introduced this bill just two days later, they wouldn’t have been able to pass it. That’s because we are 11 days from adjournment on April 23. If this bill had been introduced within 10 days of adjournment, the constitution would have required a two-thirds vote for passage. Republican votes would have been required.
And as floor leader for the Senate Republican Caucus, I can assure you they never would have gotten them.
We believe in keeping faith with voters. This one-percent limitation on property taxes was passed by Washington voters in the form of Initiative 747, back in 2001. The state Supreme Court overturned this initiative for technical reasons in 2007, but the Legislature came back to Olympia for a special session a month later and re-enacted it. Back then, the Legislature was more interested in what the people had to say.
We don’t need the money
It is hard to see this as anything but an outright grab for your wallet. It’s not as if state government is hurting. Tax collections and spending have doubled in the last decade, mostly because of growth in existing taxes. In addition, our colleagues passed a new state income tax on capital gains in 2021. They defeated a challenge in the state Supreme Court last month, and last week they introduced legislation to expand this income tax, in a way that likely would hit middle-class taxpayers like you and me.
Washington already has the 13th highest tax burden in the country, according to the state Department of Revenue, an average $6,220 per person. We are about $1,000 higher than the median state, New Hampshire, at $5,154. Our neighboring states? Oregon clocks in at $5,234 and Idaho at $4,164.
Certainly that should be enough.
What can you do?
You can let your Legislature know what you think about this idea by contacting us directly. You can leave messages for any member of the Legislature on the Legislative Hotline, at 1-800-562-6000. You can call members’ offices directly, or use the handy email forms on member websites. Our Democratic colleagues especially will appreciate knowing where you stand on this matter. On our side of the aisle, I think we already know.
Thanks for reading,
Sen. Shelly Short, 7th Legislative District
Telephone: (360) 786-7612
Mailing address: P.O. Box 40407/ Olympia, WA/ 98504
Website address: https://shellyshort.src.wastateleg.org/
Legislative Hotline: 1 (800) 562-6000