SB 6439 would provide families with property tax relief right now

Feb 21, 2018

Over the weekend, one of my widowed neighbors stopped me in the grocery store to say how upset she is about her rising property taxes. After decades of living in the same home, she is suffering from sticker shock.

Everyone has received 2018’s property tax bill, which includes the latest McCleary school tax hike to $2.70 per thousand of assessed value.  That’s a stunning $825 tax increase for a median-valued home in this area.

Property taxes across King County are increasing an average 17 percent this year. Sound Transit is also hitting King, Snohomish and Pierce County families with much higher car tab taxes, based on exaggerated car values.

The worst part is this double-whammy tax increase is wholly unnecessary. State lawmakers are swimming in money from the booming Trump economy. A new forecast of state revenue collections, of all sales, business, and other taxes, shows lawmakers now expect to receive $2.3 billion more in tax money, just from economic growth. If they wanted to, lawmakers could cut people’s property taxes and still increase spending on schools.

Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Bellingham) has proposed to do just that. His bill, SB 6439, would provide $1 billion in full property tax relief for taxpayers immediately, in 2018. The bill would return 2018 and 2019 property taxes to the 2017 rate of $1.89 per thousand of assessed value. Senator Ericksen said:

“We need to help taxpayers now. We have the money. Time is tight. We should not allow political arguments to get in the way.”

SB 6439 would offer relief this year, a refreshing change from the constant calls for money that we hear from most of our elected officials. 

The other bills in the legislature claim to offer tax relief, but are actually tax increases when compared to Senator Ericksen’s bill. They include:

The Democratic budget proposal offers $403 million in property tax reductions, but the reduction would not take effect until next year, meaning big tax increases this year.

SB 6614, sponsored by Senator Mullet (D-Issaquah) and Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), would reduce the 2019 rate to $2.39 per thousand, with no tax relief at all for 2018. The bill would consume $403 million in reserves from the budget stabilization account.

SB 2967, sponsored Rep. Kristine Lytton (D-San Juan Islands), would reduce property taxes, but only for some taxpayers, and only by imposing a new income tax on capital gains.  The bill is a big tax increase thinly disguised as a tax cut.


Washington state is awash in tax revenue. Public school budgets are at all-time highs from the historic infusion of new state revenue from McCleary. (Washington spends $13,200 per student, more than the tuition at most private schools.)  By contrast, working families and retirees, like my hard-pressed neighbor, need property tax relief right now. SB 6439 is the most immediate and robust property tax relief proposal before the legislature.

Unfortunately, Senator Ericksen faces stiff opposition in getting a hearing on his tax-relief bill. This raises questions about whether the Democrats in charge of the legislature and the governor’s office are sincere about providing genuine property tax relief to the people of this state this year.