The Tax Sharks Begin To Circle, and Spokane and Pierce County Voters Saw It Coming
When city of Spokane and Pierce County voters recently approved a supermajority requirement to raise local taxes, supporters contended one of the main reasons was to prevent local tax increases that would be promoted by state officials.
Washington Policy Center, in our Citizens Guide to Spokane’s Prop 2, warned “state legislative leaders are trying to shift more costs to cities and to increase their citizens’ financial burden to pay for them. Doing so at the local level, where supermajority requirements are not in place, would appear to make tax increases easier.”
Turns out, we were right on the money.
Less than two weeks after the Spokane vote (on February 12th), and four months after the Pierce County vote (on November 6th), the legislature has introduced a flurry of bills that would not only increase taxing authority at the local level – both city and county – but would also remove provisions that call for voter approval of certain tax hikes.
Some of the legislation includes:
- House Bill 1925 – Allowing a city or county to impose a public safety sales and use tax without voter approval
- House Bill 1954 – Allowing council approval of Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (Car Tab Tax) on vehicle licensing (for certain population areas)
- House Bill 1953 – Allowing transportation districts or county governments to impose their own Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (Car Tab Tax) up to 1% of value of vehicle (for certain population areas)
- House Bill 1959 – Would allow a county council to impose the $40 car tab fee and a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (Car Tab Tax) of up to 1.5% of value of vehicle (for certain population areas)
- House Bill 1865 – Allowing local “transportation benefit districts” to raise sales taxes without a vote of the people (for certain population areas)
Voters in the city of Spokane and Pierce County were smart – they saw this trend coming and got ahead of it. Some local lawmakers across the state are “excited” about the possibilities. In a recent article on Washington State Wire, Kirkland City Councilman Dave Asher said “if you give us local tax increase options, we will use them. All the options you have laid out, in even the most generous combination, will account for less than a quarter of the needs of local governments. So you can be assured that any revenues you authorize will be needed.”
Spokane and Pierce County voters were pretty certain about that as well, which may explain why they adopted higher thresholds for tax hikes.