News Live from “The Eyman Rim Job.”
posted by November 29 at 10:38 AMon
That’s what Savage called it yesterday when I told him I’d be down in Olympia this morning covering the special legislative session. Gov. Gregoire has asked the Democrats to put Tim Eyman’s government revenue cap (a 1 percent annual cap on the amount of revenues the government can collect from property taxes) into law after the Washington State Supreme Court threw out the public vote.
Progressive activists are pissed at Governor Gregoire (I hitched a ride down with one this morning) because they see her capitulation to Eyman as a lack of leadership.
Certainly, progressives acknowledge that property taxes are screwed up—lower income people pay about 6 percent of their income in property taxes while richer people pay half as much, 2.8 percent.
But they’re smart enough to see that Eyman’s cap on revenues—1 percent doesn’t even keep pace with inflation so how are governments supposed to provide basic services—hasn’t eased people’s legit complaints about the property tax system. Eyman’s 1 percent cap has been in place for five years now, for example, and people are still bitching about property taxes. So, obviously keeping the cap in place (a cap that is killing rural communities who are lacking in services) isn’t working. It’s like keeping those stretch waist pants in your wardrobe to make you feel like your waist line’s okay, rather than actually going on a diet.
In this instance, the diet, or the real fix that progressives are talking about is called a circuit breaker. It works like this: When property-tax bills reach a certain percentage of a homeowner’s income (say five percent), they get a tax credit.
A circuit breaker proposal developed by the Washington State Budget and Policy Center is, the Center claims, revenue neutral. And tt would give the poorest 20 percent of homeowners a 14.9 percent tax cut; the next 20 percent would get about a 12 percent cut, the middle 20 percent would get a 1.9 percent cut, and the top 40 percent would see a 2 percent increase.
The second person I ran into when I got here this morning was Washington State Budget and Policy Director Remy Trupin who says he’ll be testifying about the circuit breaker proposal in front of the Senate committee at 10:45.
He also said “the biggest misunderstanding” about Eyman’s 1 percent cap is this: It’s not a cap on your property tax payment. Eyman’s cap is a cap on government general fund revenues raised by property taxes. So, no wonder Eyman’s cap isn’t doing much to make the property tax issue (inequitable payments between rich and working class) go away.
The Supermajority Democrats should take advantage of the fact that Eyman’s fake fix was tossed by the Supreme Court, show some leadership, and use this opportunity to enact a real fix.
There is reportedly more support on the Senate side than the House side for the progressive circuit breaker idea. It will be interesting to see how Trupin’s testimony is received there.
Oh, and the first person I ran into when I got here this morning, was Eyman. He was standing outside the House hearing room, where there had already been testimony, smiling broadly. “This is exciting!” he said.