Property tax relief: From a kickoff to a punt

Rep. Dan Kristiansen -
Rep. Dan Kristiansen
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Last November, when the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against Initiative 747, I joined with House Republicans to ask the governor for a special session to reinstate the measure.

The initiative limited property tax levy increases to 1 percent per year. We were concerned the ruling could mean higher property tax bills for homeowners.

The governor eventually agreed. The Legislature met in special session Nov. 29 and we reinstated the 1 percent levy limit.

I had also hoped to do more to help citizens struggling with property taxes. We proposed a $400 property tax rebate for every homeowner who paid taxes in 2007.

Plus, my House Republican colleagues and I sought legislation to limit taxing districts’ use of banked capacity.

This allows local governments to “bank” any unused levy increases in a year for a future year, providing the ability to tax beyond the 1 percent limit.

We were told, however, a one-day special session was not the time to seek this legislation. Instead, majority party leaders noted the 2008 session was only six weeks away.

In their words, “a special session is not enough time to address all the complexities associated with creating a plan for long-term, meaningful property tax reform.”

We were encouraged about the prospects of further property tax relief when Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, told the Spokesman Review Dec. 3, “This is not the end of the property tax discussion. It’s really kind of the kickoff.”

During the 2008 session, we sought to advance our property tax relief proposals, plus an assessment averaging bill that would have prevented sharp property tax spikes. Unfortunately, the legislation was not allowed to move forward.

It is now April. The 2008 legislative session adjourned March 13. And property owners have no further meaningful tax relief than the day the majority leader talked about the kickoff. What happened?

Associated Press reporter Dave Ammons recently compiled a Top 10 “punt list” of items the majority party promised, but postponed until after the 2008 election.

Included in that list is property tax relief.

It’s disappointing we went from a “kickoff” to a “punt,” especially since unaffordable property taxes remain among top concerns of most taxpayers.

There were small victories. Some property tax relief was provided through Senate Bill 5256 for veterans with services-connected disabilities.

A partial fix was also approved to an inadvertent error in a law passed in 2007 that made voter-approved, multi-year levy lid lifts permanent.

Senate Bill 6641 makes future lid lifts temporary unless otherwise stated on the ballot. Unfortunately, it did not address those lid lifts that have passed since last July, meaning some property owners may be stuck with permanent property tax increases (not in Skagit County, however).

Still, it is not enough.

Trust in government cannot be built by punting promises. It’s built by making an honest effort to reach the goal post.

It’s time to follow through with the decisions necessary to provide true property tax relief. Our home- and property owners deserve no less.

State Rep. Dan Kristiansen,

R-Snohomish, represents the

39th Legislative District.

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