Senate Democratic Caucus locks up against property tax relief – shoots down $1 billion tax cut

  • Republican proposal cuts property taxes this year, responds to 2018 “spike”
  • Senate Democratic Caucus votes to keep taxes high
  • Proposal remains alive in bill that awaits action in Senate committee

OLYMPIA – Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate Wednesday night shot down a chance to provide $1 billion in property tax relief for homeowners and property owners across Washington state.

During debate on a school financing bill, SB 6352, all members of the Senate Democratic Caucus voted to reject an amendment that would have kept 2018 property taxes at last year’s levels. The proposal failed 25-22.

“This vote was a major disappointment, and a blow to taxpayers throughout the state of Washington,” said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who offered the amendment. “People are furious about the property tax increases they are seeing this year. We have the money to fix this problem. The right thing to do is to return that money to the people.”

Washington tax collections have risen $1 billion since last year’s legislative session, when lawmakers adopted a new school-financing plan. Starting in 2019, property taxes will decrease for 73 percent of Washington taxpayers as a new flat-rate state levy replaces local school district levies for basic education. But taxes are going up this year because school districts are allowed to continue local tax levies for basic education in 2018, while the state levy is ramped up.

In King County, some tax bills have increased 31 percent. In Snohomish County, some taxpayers are seeing a 27 percent increase.

“We had an opportunity tonight to deal with this problem once and for all,” Ericksen said. “We could have done it without raising taxes, and provide relief to people who are struggling under the crushing burden of taxes. It is disappointing that our colleagues do not appear to recognize the gravity of this problem.”

One Democrat, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who caucuses with the Senate Republican Caucus, voted for the amendment.

Ericksen’s proposal remains alive for consideration this session, however, in a different form. Ericksen’s SB 6439 awaits action in the Senate Ways and Means Committee.