August 16, 2014 in Washington Voices

Spokane Valley considers anti-tax proposal

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Raising taxes in tax-averse Spokane Valley soon might require either voter approval or supermajority support of the city council.

A formal proposal has yet to be drafted but Deputy Mayor Arne Woodard said this week he hopes to have a plan available for council consideration by this fall as a way to demonstrate the city’s commitment to fiscal restraint.

“Our citizens have voted repeatedly to require the state to put any tax increases to the people,” Woodard said, noting that they’ve also supported requirements for a legislative supermajority. “There’s no question this is a conservative area and our voters have made it clear they want to have a say on these things.”

As a practical matter, it may be more symbolic than anything else.

The Valley hasn’t taken the state-authorized annual 1 percent tax increase in at least half a decade and each of the seven council members campaigned on strong anti-tax platforms. Even city council candidates who lost their Valley races campaigned on anti-tax platforms.

Woodard said he’s concerned that with the state predicting another huge budget shortfall, the Legislature might try pushing tax issues to the local level. He and others noted that many cash-strapped cities have been under pressure to adopt $20 local-option tab taxes, which the state allows cities to impose without voter approval.

“We’re not in favor of that,” Woodard said of the local-option tab tax.

Voters in the city of Spokane last year added a 5-2 council supermajority requirement for tax increases to the city charter.

Under the plan, which appears to have broad conceptual support on the council, Woodard believes a requirement that taxes be approved by either a 5-2 supermajority vote of the council or a simple majority vote of the people could be added to the city’s governance manual, which essentially is the rulebook they must follow. It could be changed by a future city council.

Details are still being ironed out, though.

Meanwhile, another proposal that could be surfacing this fall would cut the property tax levy by 1 percent.

Councilman Ed Pace said he’s uncertain what kind of support he’ll be able to muster for the idea, noting the city already is operating lean and remains committed to avoiding even the automatically allowed increases, but is hoping to propose the reduction this fall as part of the budget drafting for 2015.

Pace announced the idea Thursday at a meeting of the Spokane Valley Business Association.


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