Call to Action: contact your legislators NOW!

The state House Finance Committee is considering two bills this week, and committee members need to hear from you immediately.

The first is HB 1827, a bill requiring a “tax expenditure report” to be part of the biennial budget process. What does this mean? Very simply it requires an accounting of all tax exemptions, credits, loopholes etc., so that legislators (and voters) can quantify what they are costing the state in lost revenues. Hard to argue with that… unless of course, you simply don’t want the public to know how much corporate tax breaks are costing us.

The second bill — and this one really gets my goat — is HB 2117, which would codify the one percent annual limit on increases in property tax revenues, that was recently tossed out along with Tim Eyman’s I-747. Let’s be clear… re-imposing this 1 percent cap would not only be incredibly harmful to local communities — particularly those in slow-growing, rural regions of the state — it would be downright cowardly and idiotic.

There may be a cap rate that makes sense, but one-percent is nonsensical and vindictive — it can’t even keep up with inflation, let alone growth in population or growth in demand for public services. All across the state local taxing districts are on the verge of insolvency, and face a potential collapse in essential public services (police, fire, EMS) unless something changes, and quick. I-747’s court defeat is an opportunity to reexamine the issue and create a reasonable cap, while targeting some real property tax relief to those who need it most. (Hmm… a Property Tax Homestead Exemption comes to mind.) But to simply regurgitate Tim’s bullshit would be a total abdication of legislative responsibility.

So let your representatives know that you want them to vote YES on HB 1827 and an emphatic NO on HB 2117. The Washington Tax Fairness Coalition has made it easier for you; just scroll to the bottom of this page and submit the form.

And do it now.

Comments

  1. 2

    spews:

    @1

    So let me get this straight. You’re against a bill that provides oversight on how corporations get special favors from politicians that they grease, but you’re for a bill that prohibits communities from raising their own property taxes in order to fund things that they want? And you call yourself a “Libertarian”? Does that word have anything to do with the term “Liberty” anymore?

  2. 3

    sgmmac spews:

    Gregoire promised to work with this legislature to fix the property taxes, NOW, what exactly has she done yet to fix this?

    Just another empty promise. There are too many from her!

  3. 4

    rhp6033 spews:

    I don’t have any problem with imposing some form of cost estimates on exemptions, loopholes, etc. It makes it possible to have the type of “zero-sum” fiscal management that was in place before Bush took office, then was conveniently thrown out to allow the Republicans to raid the federal treasury, and is only now being re-instated by the Democratic Congress.

    But when we are dealing with state revenues which are hostage to the B&O tax and sales taxes, both of which are subjet to wild swings in revenue dependent upon how the state of the economy, is it possible to quantify this with any reasonable margin of error? Couldn’t whoever is making these estimates be guilty of the same sort of accounting practices which Stockman called the “rosey scenario” during the Reagan years? Similar projections were used by Bush in January to proclaim that his policies would allow for a balanced budget by 2012.

    So I’m wondering – how is this going to work? Aren’t we just going to get a lot of competing numbers thrown at us? Won’t any lobbyist/legistlature who wants a tax break just argue that the “increased revenues” generated by the tax break (more in-state sales, higher employment, etc.) will offset or better any loss in tax revenue? You know, just like the types of arguments Bennet is now making to say that the state taxpayer should give him (err, build a stadium for him) almost half a million dollars, and we should just trust his figures that we will come out ahead somewhere down the road?

  4. 6

    spews:

    A one per cent limit means each year local governments have less and less money to provide services local constituents want. Realize even Eyman started with a 2 per cent limit. He got mad when the courts threw out that initiative and out of spite decided to redo it with one per cent.

    Property taxes need to be fair and reasonable but across the board limits picked out of the sky make no sense. The limit is the most restrictive in the country because it says police and fire departmnets and libraries each year can not even increase their budgets to keep pace with inflation.

    Homestead exemptions give protection to one’s primary residence. Across the board tax cuts help large property owners like shopping malls and developers. Eyman signed into the legislature this year as opposing homestead exemptions. That should tell you something about his priorities.

    Let’s have a public debate on property taxes and other taxes- not a draconian measure that does almost nothing to help low income and middle income proerty owners lower the taxes on their primary residence.

  5. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    Sorry to be off-topic, but this was too important to wait for an open thread:

    PENTAGON OFFICIALS KNEW OF POOR CONDITIONS AT WALTER REED FOR YEARS

    Washington Post
    By Anne Hull and Dana Priest
    Updated: 7:47 p.m. PT Feb 28, 2007

    Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army’s surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

    A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army’s top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.”

    Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17372118/

    Okay, that’s par for the course. It doesn’t matter what the subject is (Katrina, Walter Reed, troop levels in Iraq, WMD’s in Iraq, insurgency in Iraq, torture of prisoners, spying on Americans), it all plays out the same.

    First the Bush administration proclaims that it is doing a great job. When anybody questions it, they get rebuffed, ridiculing the questioner as someone who obviously doesn’t know what they are talking about. Then later, evidence surfaces showing a BIG problem. The administration acts surprised – “This is the first we’ve ever heard about it”, they proclaim, and promise to take swift action. Then comes the evidence that they actually knew or should have known about the problem much, much earlier. And it turns out the person most responsible for the conditions has usually already been promoted or given a medal, despite that prior knowledge.

    But another part of the same article points to another problem:

    “In 2004, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and his wife stopped visiting the wounded at Walter Reed out of frustration. Young said he voiced concerns to commanders over troubling incidents he witnessed but was rebuffed or ignored. “When Bev or I would bring problems to the attention of authorities of Walter Reed, we were made to feel very uncomfortable,” said Young, who began visiting the wounded recuperating at other facilities.
    Beverly Young said she complained to Kiley several times. She once visited a soldier who was lying in urine on his mattress pad in the hospital. When a nurse ignored her, Young said, “I went flying down to Kevin Kiley’s office again, and got nowhere. He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else.”

    Okay, I’ll give Young and his wife credit for visiting the troops at Walter Reed, and nd it is nice that they tried to complain about the conditions there to the military authorities. But why in the world did they stop complaining when the authorities “made him feel very uncomfortable”, or they were “rebuffed or ignored?” If a sitting member of the U.S. Congress can be “rebuffed and ignored”, who else is in a better position to effect change than they are? Why didn’t they complain loudly to Rumsfield, Cheney, and the Armed Services committee leaders in the House? If that didn’t work, why didn’t they complain to the press? Instead, they simply “stopped going” to Walter Reed, because it was “too painful” for them.

    Why would a member of the U.S. Congress drop the issue? Perhaps the date reveals a bit of the problem: It was 2004. There was an election campaign. The Republicans didn’t want any dissenting voice which might affect their chances of getting re-elected. Republicans who didn’t show total loyalty to the Bush administration were cut off and cast away. Reb. Young knew the rules, and complied. He kept quiet.

    Breaking news:

    “WASHINGTON – The Army said Thursday that the two-star general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been relieved of command following disclosures about inadequate treatment of wounded soldiers.

    Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, who was commanding general of the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command as well as Walter Reed hospital, was relieved of command by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

    In a brief announcement, the Army said service leaders had “lost trust and confidence” in Weightman’s leadership abilities “to address needed solutions for soldier outpatient care” at Walter Reed….Weightman’s duties will be assumed temporarily by Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, the commander of U.S. Medical Command, until a permanent replacement is found, Harvey said.”

    Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17402872/

    But Weightman is a relative newcomer to Walter Reed. The appalling conditions documented there recently were actually in place while Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley was in command there. But Kiley was promoted to be in charge of all Army medical services, and now he returns to take direct command of the hospital which went downhill, fast, during his tenure there.

    I presume that Kiley’s first task will be damage control – sending anybody there who has talked to reporters during this investigation to command a clinic for soldiers on the north slope of Alaska, for example.

  6. 8

    spews:

    rhp

    Certainly, the sort of games you describe will be played, but we have to start somewhere. I’ve read the bill, and this information is already being collected and prepared, this will simply make the process a bit more transparent.

    As for the other bill, HR 2117, many Democrats made campaign promises that they would work to restore the I-747 restrictions. It was rather popular, especially in those “slow-growing, rural regions“. I doubt that you’ll get enough traction to defeat it.

    I tend to dislike this kind of bill. We demand that government provide any number of services, and many folks seem to be of the mistaken impression that there is a mysterious “pot of money” that will pay for all of them. As I’ve said many times, “tax and spend” is far better than “spend and tax our grandchildren”.

    But, there is little doubt that the public wants this, and there are some safeguards. Since it limits the tax rate, there is at least some provision for growth.

    My main concern is that the next step is to impose a supermajority requirement. So long as a simple majority can vote to tax themselves for the services they require, I have to simply trust the voters. While I can question the wisdom of any community that allows its tax base to deteriorate, it is their community. Trusting the voters includes giving them the chance to screw up.

  7. 9

    spews:

    rhp (at 11:42)

    Yes, we appear to be at that stage in any embarrassing problem where we blame the innocent and punish the uninvolved, while promoting the guilty.

    After many years in the military, I wish this didn’t sound so familiar.

    As to his dropping the matter, well, lots of Republicans around that time had been cowed into submission. Hopefully some of them will begin to re-grow their backbones and stand up to the abuses in their party.

    The fact that a VA nurse would ignore a Congressman’s wife in that manner tells me that these folks knew that they were covered at very high levels, and had nothing to worry about. Of course, the fact that any nurse (or any other human being, for that matter) would ignore those kinds of conditions is horrifying.

    One more item for the list of Congressional investigations. Pretty soon we’ll be needing to appropriate more money for new federal prisons.

  8. 10

    spews:

    John Barelli @8,

    No, it is not a cap on the rate, it is a cap on the growth in revenues from existing construction. The result has been that property tax rates have been steadily declining to the point where all districts are now well below their statuatory limit. (The constitution imposes a limit on regular levy rates at a total of 1 percent of total property value. This is entirely different.)

    It does not cap growth in revenues from new construction, so fast growing counties like King and Snohomish are much less impacted than slow growing rural counties. To complicate matters for rural communities, they don’t have a sales tax base with which to make up the difference, and the state’s sales tax equalization payments ended shortly after Eyman eliminated its funding source via I-695 ($30 car tabs.)

  9. 11

    Truth_Teller spews:

    I’m curious as to what the assumptions would be behind reporting revenue “lost” to the state because of expemtions, etc. Would the assumption be that the businesses that received these breaks would have operated in precisely the same manner without them? Hired the same number of tax paying employees, paid the same bills to other businesses, stayed in the state, and so on?

    Neither the economy in general nor the effects of taxes are zero sum. If you want to report the revenue lost through tax breaks, an accounting of the consequences of what would have happened without the breaks should also be included. That is, if you want to be fair about it.

  10. 12

    spews:

    Goldy?

    I read the bill (rather than the commentary that seems to be flying about). It is possible that I misread it, but it refers to RCW 84.55.050, which also discusses a limit factor and applies it to the tax rate rather than the total taxes collected.

    As I mentioned, I don’t like this kind of bill. It tends to bring out the “bread and circuses” crowd that seem to believe that government can provide services and nobody actually has to pay for them.

    But I also know some of the co-sponsors of this bill, and they’re pretty reasonable folks that can count over ten without removing their shoes. Together with my own reading of the bill, I think that you may be wrong on that particular point.

    Ref: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/def.....=84.55.050

    Read it over yourself. If your interpretation is correct, then I’m much more likely to jump on the bandwagon. Otherwise, as little as I like this bill, I cannot expect my elected officials to back down on a promise that I personally heard them make.

  11. 13

    Right Stuff spews:

    Veterans needs should be a priority for any adminstration. Shame on this administration for their lack of oversight. Shame on the those in charge that played “save ass” instead of doing the right thing…

    That all said. I find this article rather balanced in it’s approach. Gives insight into the situation from the inside out.
    http://www.time.com/time/natio.....25,00.html

    There is a lot of finger pointing and heavy breathing about this. It looks as if the issue is getting immediate attention and resolution. As it should

  12. 14

    spews:

    John Barelli @12,

    You are confusing the lid lift statute with the limit factor. You’ll want to read RCW 84.55.0101, however, the House Bill Analysis explains it well:

    A district’s regular property tax levy is limited by a statutory maximum growth rate in the amount of tax revenue that may be collected from year to year. Most recently, this limit was modified by voter initiative in 2002 with the passage of Initiative 747 (I-747; see below). Generally, the limit requires a reduction of property tax rates as necessary to limit the growth in the total amount of property tax revenue received to the lesser of 1 percent or inflation. The revenue limitation does not apply to new value placed on tax rolls attributable to new construction, to improvements to existing property, to changes in state-assessed valuation, or to construction of certain wind turbines. In areas where property values have grown more rapidly than 1 percent per year the 101 percent revenue limit has caused district tax rates to decline below the maximum rate.

    The revenue limit for regular property taxes may be superseded by voter approval; this process is known as a “lid lift.” Lid lifts require approval by a majority of the voters in a taxing district, and allow the district to set its levy in an amount that exceeds 101 percent of the previous year’s tax, as long as the resulting tax rate is within the statutory rate limit.

    The limit is on the dollar value of revenues.

  13. 15

    spews:

    Hi, Goldy.

    (You posted while I was writing this, but it still seems to apply.)

    It appears that we might be both right (and both wrong). This is from the non-partisan bill analysis prepared by the Office of Program Research:

    A district’s regular property tax levy is limited by a statutory maximum growth rate in the amount of tax revenue that may be collected from year to year. Most recently, this limit was modified by voter initiative in 2002 with the passage of Initiative 747 (I-747; see below). Generally, the limit requires a reduction of property tax rates as necessary to limit the growth in the total amount of property tax revenue received to the lesser of 1 percent or inflation. The revenue limitation does not apply to new value placed on tax rolls attributable to new construction, to improvements to existing property, to changes in state-assessed valuation, or to construction of certain wind turbines. In areas where property values have grown more rapidly than 1 percent per year the 101 percent revenue limit has caused district tax rates to decline below the maximum rate.

    As the average value of properties in the urban area increases faster than the average value in rural areas, there will be an imbalance that is likely to grow worse over time.

    There are a few other factors, most notably land use requirements (that the right has fought tooth and nail) that are tending to mitigate this, as rural property values are holding steady (and even increasing) while urban values are dropping, due primarily to the fact that there is a shortage of rural building lots and available properties. We’re seeing a lot of this out here on the Key Peninsula and in Kitsap and Mason Counties, where it is almost impossible to find decent building lots under $50K, and most are selling for well over $100K. (Hey, this is what I do.)

    So this will certainly do some interesting things to the overall balance, but I’m unable to really figure out what. I think that the overall effect will be to shift some of the burden from the urban areas, with their higher growth rates, to the rural areas, despite the faster growth in prices.

    Since the areas this was most popular (conservative, rural) are the areas likely to be most adversely affected, and a number of Democrats (including my two reps) did promise to pass this during the campaign (it was very popular, and would likely have been a campaign-breaker), I have to grit my teeth and bear this.

    I’m willing to bet that a number of other Democrats are in the same situation. If you read through the list of co-sponsors, it includes most of the House Democratic leadership. While I agree that this is (at best) a poor bill, we are talking about politicians here, and a vote against this, especially after being boxed into a public promise to vote for it would be a career-ender.

    I like Captain Seaquist and Ms. Lantz, and the very thought of getting Ms. McMahan back in office, along with her buddy, Mr. Boehme is enough to make me back off.

  14. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    What all of these measures boil down to is that under our regressive tax system, tax burdens land on those least able to pay, and people afraid of property tax increases they can’t afford have sought protection through measures like caps and limits. The solution is not a byzantine puzzle of mathematical formulas, but scrapping our Rube Goldberg tax system and replacing it with a rational taxing system that is capable of paying for needed public services and distributes the tax burden fairly based on ability to pay.

  15. 17

    Richard Pope spews:

    I have said many times before that we should not have to rely on local levies to fund public schools. The state constitution requires local levies must be approved by 60% of the voters.

    My proposal — outlaw local levies. The statutory authority for local levies can simply be eliminated. Raise the state property tax (or other state revenues) sufficiently to adequately fund public education for all school districts.

    This proposal simply requires 50 representatives, 25 senators, and the signature of the Governor. If the Democrats were really serious about public education funding, they could accomplish this without a single Republican in the legislature having to vote for this, and without the people having to vote on this in November. In fact, all schools could be adequately and equitably funded in September 2007, when they open their doors for another school year.