Eye On Olympia

From the column: Property tax deferments, and workers on unpaid furloughs in the House and Senate...

From my weekly print column:

Getting a breather from the tax man:

Struggling to pay your property taxes? Some low- and middle-income homeowners can delay paying those taxes.
Here's who qualifies:
-You must have had a household income of $57,000 or less last year,
-You must have owned the home for at least 5 years,
-You must have significant equity built up,
-and it must be your primary residence.

Here's the catch: the taxes are only deferred, not eliminated. When you sell or move out of the home, those taxes must be paid, with interest. (The interest rate this year is 5 percent.)

To find out more, contact the state Department of Revenue at 360-570-5900.

-Next place to see unpaid furloughs: the statehouse

Like many of their private-sector colleagues, some state workers are being told to take unpaid time off in order to save their co-workers' jobs.

"As you know, the Legislature did not exempt itself from the reductions that were made across the rest of state government," Secretary of the Senate Tom Hoemann recently wrote to staffers.

The Senate's cutting eight jobs; the House of Representatives is cutting 10. Workers in both must also take five days off, unpaid, this year and next year.

On top of that, House Chief Clerk Barbara Baker said, House employees volunteered to take a total of more than 4,300 more hours off without pay. That saves an extra $420,000, she said, and saves four jobs.

Elsewhere in state government, state agencies and worker unions have so far been reluctant to institute furloughs, although it's been talked about. (A key difference: the people who work for the House and Senate aren't union members.)

Interestingly, there's one group whose pay cannot be cut: state lawmakers. The salaries _ which range from $42,000 to $50,000 a year _ are set by a citizen's commission. And the state constitution bans the commission from reducing elected officials' pay.

Legislators'  salaries can, however, be frozen, and that's what the commission has ordered for the next two years.

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