Politics Gov. Gregoire Missing Golden Opportunity for Real Tax Reform
posted by November 12 at 9:23 AMon
During last year’s legislative session in Olympia, the Democrats flirted with the idea of codifying Tim Eyman’s 1-percent-property-tax-cap into state law. (At the time, Eyman’s rule—passed in 2001 as I-747—was before the Washington State Supreme Court.)
I bitched at the Democrats for considering the move. 1) Why hand Eyman a victory? And more important: 2) If constituents were still complaining about property taxes, than obviously, 747 (in effect since ‘02) wasn’t solving the problem. And no wonder—it’s a regressive tax, with the lowest bracket paying 6 percent of their annual income in property taxes while the top notch pays just 2.8 percent.
Now that the Court has tossed 747, the supermajority Democrats have a chance to leave Eyman’s pseudo-populist fix in the dust, and enact real property tax reform for the masses by tying increases to income. (A more mainstream Democratic alternative would tack increases to inflation, so that the government can maintain service levels. However, that fix doesn’t address the taxpayer side of the equation.)
I discussed the income-based idea last session:
The idea works like this: When property tax bills reach a certain percentage of a homeowner’s income, they get a tax credit. The proposal developed by the Budget and Policy Center is, they claim, revenue neutral and would give the poorest 20% of homeowners a 14.9% tax cut; the next 20% would get about a 12% cut; the middle 20% would get a 1.9% cut; and the top 40% would see a 2% increase.
The legislature didn’t end up doing anything last session, but I hoped the Democratic majority would move on it this year. And now, thanks to the Court, they have the opportunity….
Unfortunately, Gov. Gregoire is all set to pull a Gov. Gary Locke. (Remember when Locke caved and instituted Eyman’s 695 car tab limit and voter approval for taxes mandate after that one was declared unconstitutional.)
On Friday, she announced she’s going to push legislation to put 747 on the books.