Ericksen bill prevents property-tax spike in 2018

  • Corrects timing problem with last year’s levy reform that could lead to temporary increases.
  • Keeps state property-tax rate low as local school levies are phased out.
  • Maintains 2018 state basic-education levy at 2017 levels.

OLYMPIA – Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, says the state ought to use an unexpected $1 billion uptick in tax collections to prevent a temporary spike in Washington-state property taxes in 2018.

A measure introduced Monday in advance of the 2018 legislative session would use the state’s gains from recent tax-collection forecasts to pay down a temporary increase in property taxes that will affect many school districts in 2018. Ericksen’s bill would keep the 2018 state property tax levy for basic education at 2017 levels, $1.89 for each $1,000 of assessed value, while local school levies are phased out.

“We need to fix the timing problem the Legislature created last session, and with an additional $1 billion in tax collections, we have a way to do it,” Ericksen said. “The problem is that we allowed local levies to continue while the new statewide levy is being phased in.”

Lawmakers last session adopted a complex plan to end local property-tax levies for basic education, replacing it with a statewide levy — ending a system that allowed residents of wealthy urban districts to pay much lower tax rates than the rest of the state. Once the new system is fully implemented during the 2019 calendar year, 73 percent of Washington residents will pay lower taxes, including residents of Whatcom County. But because local levies are allowed to continue through 2018 while the statewide levy is phased in, temporary increases are expected in many districts. Without Ericksen’s bill, the statewide levy will rise to $2.70 in 2018.

Since the Legislature adjourned in July, new tax-collection forecasts have projected the state will receive $1 billion in additional receipts. Ericksen maintains the money should be returned to taxpayers in the form of tax relief.

“With the upturn in the economy, we have the ability to fix this problem,” Ericksen said. “Everyone in Washington state should benefit if we keep the state rate at its current level for 2018.

“We don’t need a property tax increase in Washington to fund education. It is only fair to the taxpayers that we enact this new system at once, and not in phases that result in substantial tax increases.”