Wagoner: Property-tax hike most destructive bill this session

Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley and a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement today on Senate Democrats’ plan to vote on Senate Bill 5770, which would allow local property taxes to annually grow up at triple the rate now allowed by law.

“The proposed increase in local property-tax authority under Senate Bill 5770 makes it the single most destructive and far-reaching bill of the 2024 session. 

“Implementation will undoubtedly drive up home-ownership costs as well as force crushing increases in rental rates – the last thing Washingtonians need during the middle of a historic affordable-housing crisis.

“This unimaginative non-solution is both politically and practically dangerous and is tone-deaf to the voices of taxpayers who have been crying out for relief for years. It has the potential to devastate every household budget in our state at a time when families are already struggling under an oppressive tax burden.

“Under one-party rule in Olympia, Washingtonians are already experiencing rampant inflation, brutally high fuel costs, food insecurity and housing prices that have put home ownership out of reach for far too many. When will the majority party take responsibility for its bad policy decisions and reverse course?

“Democrats in the Legislature want to literally pass the buck and the political blowback from their policies to local government. Communities in which this increase is inflicted on tax-weary citizens will never be able to pass another school or public-safety levy again. Trust will have been shattered with the taxpayers, and it may never be rebuilt. 

“Proponents tout it as badly needed funding for struggling local governments. Whether you agree or not with this perceived need, there are better, less damaging, options.

“For one, state government has been oh-so-willing to fix its budget problems on the backs of local government; it’s time to reverse that trend. In 2012, when the state got out of the liquor business, those funds were swept from local government to the state’s general fund. My Senate Bill 5568 would return those funds to local government. 

“Also in 2012, voters passed Initiative 502 with the hope and understanding that cannabis revenue would solve a myriad of funding shortfalls. That promise has fallen far short as the Legislature again swept most of the funding to the already bloated general fund.  Counties receive a mere 1.5% and cities 3.5%.  Another proposal I have put forward, SB 5404, would double the cannabis revenue to local government.

“These two bills offer a better solution, a ‘new tool,’ not just a heavier hammer to meet additional local-funding needs. And they would accomplish this without devastating Washington families.”

SB 5770 is sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and cosponsored by 18 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. The measure cleared the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 5 on a Democrats-only vote and could come up for a vote by the full Senate as soon as Thursday.