Ericksen bills slash property taxes, restore funding for Blaine interchange

  • Tax measure would effectively keep state property tax for schools at 2017 level.
  • Prevents one-year “spike” caused by phase-in of property tax plan.
  • Blaine interchange bill restores project vetoed by Inslee last year.

OLYMPIA – Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, introduced bills Jan. 16 that would prevent a short-term spike in property taxes this year and restore funding for a Blaine freeway interchange that was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee last session.

“People want sensible decision-making from Olympia,” Ericksen said. “This property-tax relief bill is an important protection that puts taxpayers first. And by restoring funding for the Blaine interchange, we underscore the need for rational decision-making about highway projects.”

Ericksen’s property-tax measure, SB 6439, is prompted by the school-funding plan adopted by lawmakers last session. The plan ramps up state levies for schools while local school-district levies for basic education are phased out. Though the plan will mean lower taxes for 73 percent of Washington residents, including Whatcom County, when it is fully implemented in 2019, residents of many Washington school districts may see higher property taxes this year because school districts are permitted to continue using local levies for basic education in 2018.

Ericksen’s bill would effectively continue the 2017 state school property-tax rate of $1.89 for each $1,000 of assessed value. The tax rate rises to $2.70 this year, but under Ericksen’s bill, taxpayers would be allowed to “defer” 81 cents of the tax to next year’s bill. Because 2019 taxes would be reduced 81 cents to compensate, taxpayers would see the benefit this year.

“We don’t need a property-tax increase to pay for the schools,” Ericksen explained. “We’re going to be collecting another $1 billion in taxes this year we weren’t expecting last session. The fairest thing to do is to return that money to the people, in the form of tax relief.”

Inslee’s veto of the Blaine exit, meanwhile, was a blow to a project that is central to local plans for economic development. Reconstruction of Exit 274 would add a new southbound off-ramp onto Peace Portal Drive and create a new grade separation. Inslee’s veto message complained that the project did not appear on a state transportation-project priority list.

“Inslee’s veto made no sense,” Ericksen said. “Money wasn’t the issue, and similar projects were allowed to remain in the budget while this one was singled out. This year’s legislation ensures Blaine’s project will remain front and center as the Legislature considers transportation projects in 2018.”

Ericksen’s bill, SB 6440, allocates $12.1 million for the project and requires that it be added to the state transportation-project list.