Some lawmakers seek to take away homeowner property tax protections: Analysis of HB 1764

By PAUL GUPPY  | 
LEGISLATIVE MEMO
|
Mar 3, 2017

Download file Download the full legislative memo here

Key Findings:

  1. In 2001, voters enacted a law that limits increases in regular property tax collections state and local officials can impose to 1% per year.
  2. Later, the policy was affirmed by most lawmakers of both parties and supported by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire.
  3. This modest tax-limitation policy works well; state and local governments are well funded – revenues are rising – while yearly property tax increases are kept at a more reasonable level.
  4. The 1% limit restricts the greed of some public officials whose constant complaints about wanting more money comes across as mean-spirited and insensitive.
  5. Now some state lawmakers want to take away the 1% property tax limit, and expose owners of homes, farms, condos and businesses to yearly increases of up to 5%.
  6. The bill, HB 1764, would represent a 500% boost in the yearly increase in money officials take from the public.
  7. The burden of HB 1764 would fall hardest on the poor, immigrants, working families and elderly people living on fixed incomes.


Introduction

At a time when the national government is being roiled by a new administration, it is reassuring to know one effective policy at the state level is working every day, quietly and effectively, exactly as planned.

That policy is based on the wise decision voters made in 2001 to enact a 1% limit on how much state and local officials can increase the amount of money they take from people each year in regular property tax.  The modest tax relief offered by sponsors of Initiative 747 was so popular the measure passed with over 57% of the vote.  Later, in 2007, the policy was confirmed in a bill passed by most lawmakers of both parties and signed by Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire. 

The policy is designed to apply equally to all 1,200-plus taxing jurisdictions across the state.  That’s a good thing, because every home and business in the state is taxed by several jurisdictions at once.  In Seattle, for example, a typical home is taxed by ten different sets of officials, from the state, county, and city to so-called “junior” districts for schools, parks, and transit.  

Today, it all adds up to the heaviest property tax burden Washington residents have ever paid, and it continues to go up every year.