NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Property tax reform must be a priority, NPI tells Senate Ways & Means Committee

Editor’s Note: The fol­low­ing are the pre­pared remarks of NPI’s founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor in sup­port of Sen­ate Bill 5770, a bill before the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate from Sen­a­tor Jamie Ped­er­sen (D‑43rd Dis­trict: Seat­tle) pro­vid­ing for state and local prop­er­ty tax reform. The intent sec­tion of the orig­i­nal bill cor­rect­ly not­ed that “the arbi­trary one per­cent lim­i­ta­tion on the growth of prop­er­ty tax col­lec­tions has severe­ly inhib­it­ed the abil­i­ty of the state, coun­ties, cities, and oth­er spe­cial dis­tricts to pro­vide crit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices in the face of sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion growth and infla­tion.” The Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee today held a hear­ing on a pro­posed sub­sti­tute for SB 5770. 

Chair Robin­son, Rank­ing Mem­ber Wil­son, Mem­bers of the Committee: 

Good evening. For the record, I am Andrew Vil­leneuve, the founder of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, tes­ti­fy­ing PRO on Sen­ate Bill 5770.

It’s crit­i­cal that we explore ideas to deliv­er prop­er­ty tax reform to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans and empow­er our local elect­ed lead­ers to gov­ern responsibly.

It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that tax­es aren’t just oblig­a­tions — they are also invest­ments. With­out tax­es, we wouldn’t have a state.

This sub­sti­tute dif­fers sub­stan­tial­ly from the orig­i­nal leg­is­la­tion — it might as well be a brand new bill — and I encour­age peo­ple who are lis­ten­ing to this hear­ing to actu­al­ly read the sub­sti­tute. You’ll need to open the elec­tron­ic bill book because the only text cur­rent­ly shown on the bill page is the orig­i­nal bill.

Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 747, which dates back to 2001, is a failed pol­i­cy that is chok­ing the life out of our essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices, espe­cial­ly in areas that have not been pass­ing levies to address pri­or­i­ties like behav­ioral health, pub­lic safe­ty, or trans­porta­tion. We can’t afford for I‑747 to remain on the books for anoth­er twen­ty years. As Sen­a­tor Ped­er­sen [prime spon­sor of SB 5770] men­tioned, con­tin­u­a­tion of the sta­tus quo will have neg­a­tive ram­i­fi­ca­tions for pub­lic safety.

The Leg­is­la­ture needs to take action to make prop­er­ty tax­es fair­er and more equi­table for tax­pay­ers and more depend­able for our local governments.

We have found in our research sub­stan­tial and ongo­ing sup­port for over­haul­ing our prop­er­ty tax code to lessen oblig­a­tions for low and mid­dle income fam­i­lies while rais­ing them on the wealthy. For exam­ple, in Octo­ber 2022, we asked:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose leg­is­la­tion that would reduce prop­er­ty tax­es for mid­dle and low­er-income house­holds, while slight­ly increas­ing them for wealthy fam­i­lies, with no loss of rev­enue to pub­lic services?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port: 66% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 48%
    • Some­what sup­port: 18%
  • Oppose: 27%
    • Some­what oppose: 7%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 20%
  • Not sure: 7%

Our sur­vey of 782 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State midterm vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 19th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 20th, 2022. The sur­vey was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

It uti­lized a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

This bill does not cre­ate a home­stead exemp­tion but we encour­age the com­mit­tee to think about pur­su­ing this idea in order to pro­vide tax fair­ness to even more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. A renter’s cred­it could be paired with a home­stead exemption.

Many of our pub­lic ser­vices are bad­ly under­fund­ed, so we need solu­tions that both pro­vide more rev­enue as well as greater fair­ness and equi­ty for our people.

Thank you for hear­ing this bill and thank you, Sen­a­tor Ped­er­sen for your thought­ful work and will­ing­ness to tack­le a very thorny problem.

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