October 12, 1997 in City

Pass Referendum 47

John Webster For The Editorial

Can Washington state afford to rein-in property taxes, as voters are invited to do on the Nov. 4 ballot? Darn tootin’. A strong economy is flooding the state treasury with cash. The state expects $800 million in surplus revenue. Legislators may decide what to do with this windfall in January. Tax cuts are among their options.

But right now, by passing Referendum 47, taxpayers can assure some relief.

Referendum 47 has three parts.

First, it would make permanent a 4.7 percent reduction in the state property tax rate. Democrats sneer that the cut, approved over their objections in 1995, is insignificant. So, would they rather the rate go back up? It’s scheduled to, in January, because Republicans had to settle for a temporary reduction. But the voters can, and should, make this cut permanent. Why on earth should a state with a huge surplus get another $90 million in property taxes?

Next, the referendum would put a damper on both of the factors that have made your property taxes soar:

When a sizzling real estate market causes a sudden jump in assessed valuations, your taxes jump, too. The referendum contains a formula to dampen market-related “spikes.” A valuation increase exceeding 15 percent would be phased in over four years, sparing you a ruinous jolt. Your property appraisal still would wind up at market value, but would get there at a gentler pace.

Under current law the state, cities, counties, schools, fire districts and library districts can boost their property tax collections by 6 percent every year, automatically, without discussion or a vote. That’s three times the current rate of inflation. Referendum 47 requires that if legislative bodies want to raise property tax collections by more than the inflation rate, they must vote publicly to do so by a two-thirds majority. To boost taxes by more than 6 percent, they must go to the voters. This means government must make a strong, public case for higher spending, or hold the line.

Slow property tax growth. Support Referendum 47.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster For the editorial board

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