The state Supreme Court says it’s likely to issue its opinion tomorrow morning in Washington Citizen Action v. State of WA, which challenges the constitutionality of Washington’s I-747 property-tax limit. (Among the plaintiffs: Whitman County.)
It’s a complex case, but here’s a primer:
Prior to 2000, local property tax increases were typically capped at 6 percent more per year. But in November of that year, voters approved anti-tax activist Tim Eyman’s Initiative 722, which lowered the cap to 2 percent unless voters okayed more. The lower cap was promptly challenged in court.
While that court fight was going on, Eyman in 2001 launched a yet-stricter measure — Initiative 747 — to bring the cap down to 1 percent.
The 2-percent cap was declared unconstitutional by a Pierce County judge in February 2001, a decision that the state Supreme Court upheld in September of that year. The property tax cap reverted back to 6 percent more per year.
Meanwhile, however, Eyman was pushing ahead with I-747, gathering and filing signatures and getting the measure on the ballot in November 2001. It passed.
The problem: the new ballot measure language cited the old 2 percent cap.
As a result, King County Superior Court udge Mary E. Roberts ruled a year ago, voters were led to believe they were voting for just a modest reduction in the cap — from 2 percent to 1 percent. In reality, the cut was much more dramatic: from 6 percent to 1 percent.
“The voters were misled as to the nature and content of the law to be amended,” Roberts wrote in a June 2006 ruling. “…The constitution forbids this.” So she declared I-747 to be unconstitutional.
That ruling was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and argued this past May. (Justices Mary Fairhurst and Jim Johnson recused themselves.)