Note to Legislature: tax increases are apparently NOT the third rail of WA politics

So, it turns out homeowners often see their property taxes rising faster than I-747′s one percent limit on existing construction.

In the seven years since voters statewide slapped a 1 percent limit on the annual increase in regular property taxes, plenty of homeowners have seen their taxes rise a lot faster than that.

Geez… I guess voters must be pissed.  Looks like we might have another property tax revolt brewing, right?  Um… maybe not:

[T]he biggest reason is voters themselves: They’ve shown a notable willingness to support tax increases put before them on the ballot, which are exceptions allowed to the 1 percent cap.

Holy crap… how the hell did that happen?

“When voters consider these things, their passage rate is pretty high,” King County Assessor Scott Noble said.

In November, Seattle voters approved two “lid lifts,” which are proposals to increase property taxes beyond the 1 percent annual limit, or lid: One will raise $73 million over six years for repairs to Pike Place Market, and the other will generate $146 million over six years for improvements to parks, playgrounds and museums. Together, the two measures will add $125 to the annual tax bill of the owner of a $450,000 home.

But that’s just a couple of property tax levies… you know… a bunch of goddamn, ungrateful renters voting to raise taxes on their landlords.  The majority of folks would never vote to raise taxes on themselves…

Beyond that, voters in the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties agreed to an increase of 0.5 percentage points in their sales tax rate to finance the expansion of Sound Transit’s light rail system. Although not subject to the same kind of cap as property taxes, most local sales tax increases also require voter approval.

And in recent years local voters also approved a host of other property tax levies, plus a sales tax increase to fund expanded bus service, while statewide voters overwhelmingly rejected repeals of both the estate tax and a gas tax increase.  So I’m guessing by now our politicians are starting to get the message…

Jan Drago, a 15-year veteran of the Seattle City Council, said she was surprised that all three of those tax increase proposals won voter approval.

That’s because Drago spent too much time listening to conventional wisdom, and not enough time listening to actual voters.  Still, in hindsight, she pretty much nails it:

But she said, “If you present a problem and a solution, and articulate the problem and the solution, Seattle voters are very generous.”

That’s right… voters are willing to tax themselves to pay for the government services and infrastructure they want, if they believe they’re going to get the services and infrastructure they’re being asked to pay for, and at a reasonable cost.

So before the Democratic majority in the Legislature agrees to slash funding for K-12 and higher education, simply because there’s no alternative, they might want to consider whether, if they asked voters for a little more money for these popular services, voters might actually say “yes”?

You know, it’s not like your Republican opponents aren’t going to run against you accusing you of raising taxes, regardless of what you do.

Comments

  1. 1

    drool spews:

    I’d like to see the “fluff” in government spending…..like art at transfer stations or the art festooned concrete wall on the third runway go before the voters. You would see where the voters really wish to put their money.

  2. 2

    ivan spews:

    Nice post, Goldy, and right on the mark. I hope I am not being unkind to remind you that Speaker Chopp has been saying this very same thing at least since the 2006 session.

  3. 3

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    Goldy,

    One thing I have noted is that almost all,if not all, tax increases are to fund bonds. This appeals to voters for two reasons: 1. like a credit card the costs are delayed and, 2. eventually, the bond gets paid off!

    Of course this is a fantasy. Paying by bond for roads and schools and parks maintenance is like borrowing money to pay the plumber or roofer. (Something we all due but should not). Maintenance should come from regular budgets for the simple reason that these are known, predictable costs. (Like snow removal?)

    To make matters worse binds are, in effect, a deduction for the wealthy. They buy these bond, get tax free income while we pay the bonds off (esp in a state like WA with a regressive tax code).

    I have a thought about an answer. If we had real leadership, the governor could and should use the current crisis to educate the pubolic abut the fallacy of use of bonds for anything other than capital expenses. The she could sel;l the public on an income tax, specifically tied to a ban on use of binds for scheduled expenses! Done well, over time, this would decrease net taxes!

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @1 Who, exactly, do you think elected the politicians who passed the laws and budgets calling for spending on public art?

    The reality is that public art is such a small percentage of government spending that if we eliminated it you wouldn’t notice a difference in your tax bills.

    Public art also serves pragmatic purposes, for example, discouraging graffitti which in turn may discourage gang activity at specific locations.

    Anyone who knows anything about history and culture is aware that many human societies from prehistory to the present made large investments in art. Ignorant fools rail against art; intelligent people wonder why art is such a universal human product, which leads them to think about what practical purpose art serves in the lives of those who create it. A logical mind would conclude there must be one, or they wouldn’t do it.

    You, my friend, are not what I would call a scholar or intellectual. I peg you as an ignorant fool, which happens to be one of the primary defining traits of wingnuts. The fact we have a great many people in this country who despise knowledge and believe willful stupidity is a virtue doesn’t make ignorant fools superior, it merely makes America a land of mass stupidity, and subjects us all to the consequences that brings.

  5. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Washingtonians, on the whole, are not overtaxed compared to other states; but due to our regressive local/state tax system, our state has overtaxed population segments. The fundamental problem here is that increases in public spending fall on those least able to pay. Ironically, this creates resistance to tax reform that would provide relief for those hurt most by the current system. It’s a vicious circle.

    Breaking the vicious circle will require overcoming the myths and lies of the right with a protracted campaign of public education aimed at getting Washington voters to realize that the worst possible tax system is the one we already have, and tax reform bring relief to the vast majority of our citizens.

    The problem in this state is not that our citizens don’t understand the value of public investments. They do. The problem is the distribution of the tax burden, and the fact that it’s hard to raise taxes because doing so under our regressive system takes food off tables and shoes off children’s feet. You can’t keep going back for more money to people who don’t have any money. That doesn’t work.

  6. 6

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    My property taxes have gone up 350% since I occupied this hole. The market value of the hole itself is up about 80%. The two most inflationary items in our household budget are medical care and local/state taxes, and being retirees on fixed incomes, that’s a problem for us. Yes, I know my affluent neighbors voted for this stuff, and I even voted for some of it, but there’s a need for more sensitivity toward those of limited means.

  7. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    RR @ 5: I agree completely.

    But let’s face it – tax reform of this sort is going to have to come from the ground up. There has to be significant support from a measurable majority of Washington voters in order to provide the “cover” that Washington State politicians need. Personally, I don’t see it happening except by initiative.

    What we need to do is to have some good studies showing what an alternative tax system would look like, and the specific effects it would have on the state’s priorty spending. Force voters to face the choice of reforming taxes or eliminating specific programs. Let each person see how much they would win (or lose) under the proposed system, vs. the current system.

    Sure, the anti-tax people will try to distort it and create fear. McCain’s campaign tried to do that. But fortunately, there was enough light on the subject that it just made the Republicans look elitist, as they argued that people earning over $250K per year were “middle class”. We can do it the same way here, if we do it right.

  8. 8

    spews:

    Rabbit @6,

    Had we an income tax, we not only wouldn’t be so reliant on property taxes, but we could implement a graduated property tax, in which your property tax rate was was tied to income. (Well, constitution permitting. What we could do is issue an income tax credit based on property tax paid and income bracket.)

  9. 9

    Michael spews:

    In November, Seattle voters approved two “lid lifts,” which are proposals to increase property taxes beyond the 1 percent annual limit, or lid: One will raise $73 million over six years for repairs to Pike Place Market, and the other will generate $146 million over six years for improvements to parks, playgrounds and museums.

    Someone tell this to the governor and maybe we can save our state parks from getting sloughed off.

    http://news.opb.org/article/38.....d-closure/
    Washington State Parks Slated for Closure

    Lake Osoyoos
    Brooks Memorial
    Schafer
    Bogachiel
    Tolmie
    Fay Bainbridge
    Fort Okanogan
    Wenberg
    Fort Ward
    Joemma Beach
    Kopachuck
    Lake Sylvia
    Old Fort Townsend
    Source: Washington State Parks Department

  10. 10

    rhp6033 spews:

    Goldy @ 8: Well, we could do that, and have a VERY simple income tax, simply by having a state tax based on “taxable income”, as defined in your IRS 1040 form. That would already allow deductions for such things as mortgage interest, medical expenses (above the cap), and property taxes paid.

    I personally prefer the state tax to be tied to “adjusted income” on the federal forms, so that the state tax isn’t quite so subject to Congressional tinkering of the federal taxes. But I’d be willing to sacrifice this in lieu of the federal definition of “taxable income”, if it means a simpler state form.

    My idea of an ideal state income tax form:

    1. Taxable Income (see 1040 line xxxx): ________

    2. State Tax Rate (from schedule “A”): _________

    3. Multiply line 1 X line 2, answer: __________

    4. Amount Deducted from Paycheck (W2) __________

    5. Subtract line 4 from line 3: ___________

    6. If line 5 is a postive number, write a check for that amount payable to State Treasurer. If line 5 is a negative amount, sign and send in your return, you will receive a refund.

    Basically, all the work is done for you when you complete the federal return. The state tax return shouldn’t take more than another fifteen minutes to complete, if done this way.

  11. 11

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    6. Roger Rabbit spews:
    My property taxes have gone up 350% since I occupied this hole.

     
    Taxes are good, they penalize those that have. Spread the wealth.
    There are many people that weren’t lucky enough to own homes.
      

    two most inflationary items in our household budget are medical care and local/state taxes,

     
    Don’t you want to pay your fair share in taxes?
      

    but there’s a need for more sensitivity toward those of limited means.

      
    From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
    But it is funny when people on the left have to pay taxes and complain about it. It’s only going to get worse in the next 4 years…. Enjoy.
     
    I’m guessing your offspring aren’t too concerned about helping out.

  12. 12

    gs spews:

    Just what people need right now added to their stagnant wage growth (and fears of further job loss) is another 6% Income tax on their already overtaxes asses.

    Now that is the type of fix that even Obama has ditched as being the wrong thing for these times.

  13. 13

    drool spews:

    Roger, Those little expenses all add up. That’s why I turn off lights and appliances when not needed.

    BTW, I voted mostly in the D column. No wingnut here.

    I just hate seeing money wasted. MANDATING art is a waste.

  14. 14

    spews:

    gs @12,

    Yeah, that’s the sort of typical bullshit one gets whenever the issue is raised. Who said anything about a 6% income tax? How about, 3% on income over $200,000 and 5% on income over $1 million?

  15. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 “tax reform of this sort is going to have to come from the ground up”

    That’s exactly my point. We can’t rely on gunshy politicians like Gregoire to get this job done. We have to do it ourselves.

  16. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 Our property taxes actually seem rather comparable to other states’ property taxes, and are actually less than in other states I’m familiar with, when you compared similar properties. That’s why I support the Gates Commission recommendation of using an income tax to replace the state sales tax and the B & O tax. If we eliminated the 6.5% state sales tax, and kept the smorgasbord of local sales taxes totaling 3.4% in King County (and less in outside Puget Sound), we’d end up with a mix of income, sales, and property taxes comparable to what most other states have. That’s where I think we should be going.

  17. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @11 No, taxes are disagreeable things that we tolerate because they pay for things we want and need. … And no, the next 4 years won’t be worse because it’s not possible to make a bigger mess than you stupid Republicans left in your wake.

  18. 18

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @12 I agree that people don’t need higher taxes right now. Do you agree that people also don’t need a government run by cheap labor conservatives dedicated to keeping wages down, either now or at any other time?

  19. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @13 I’m not necessarily a fan of mandated public art, but let’s be practical here, the art budget is a drop in the bucket and the art does make our communities and public buildings more pleasant places to be.

    But if you’ll indulge me to play an advocate’s role here for a moment, art that works also plays an important role in our lives, similar to that of education: The objective of art is to get you to see familiar things in new ways, getting you out of your mental ruts, as it were, making lightbulbs go on, and broadening your perspective on the world. We spend tons of money on education to accomplish that, so what’s wrong with spending a relatively paltry amount on public art to do the same thing?

  20. 20

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    If you guys are so hot to trot about income taxes, then start tithing to the Department of Revenue. They will be glad to take your money, but the rest of us in Washington do not want an income tax in any way, shape or form. In fact, I think the country should be looking for a way to get rid of the federal income tax.

    Income tax? No thanks! I’ll stay with the current system rather than have yet another wealth re-distribution scheme. Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.

  21. 21

    Right Stuff spews:

    @19
    “art that works also plays an important role in our lives, similar to that of education: The objective of art is to get you to see familiar things in new ways, getting you out of your mental ruts, as it were, making lightbulbs go on, and broadening your perspective on the world”

    Yes I agree, art is very important. Art is a very important part of our culture.

    “so what’s wrong with spending a relatively paltry amount on public art to do the same thing?”

    Because that’s not the job of the government.
    And paltry is all a matter of perspective. 1% of 2.5 billion is a lot of money.

  22. 22

    gs spews:

    Goldy, Who said anything about an Income tax, well it was your very own Democrats in Olympia who offered up the 6% plan in the beginning of the last state administration.

    Besides that, Obama (and I do give him much credit for this right now) and Gregoire realize that THIS is NOT the time to tax anybody more.

    Sorry, this one you are wrong on big time!

    Further killing the economy in this country by more taxes is just the wrong idea at the wrong time.

    I got no pity when I see the wages of alot of the 100k to 300k beaurocrats in this state, not getting hit.

    When all of America is suffering.

  23. 24

    WeBentOverTheGOP spews:

    The righties don’t want us to spend tax money on anything but war, prisons and so-called conservative social issues. They want us to give churches, big oil and other fat cats tax breaks (which is the same thing as a tax on the rest of us) but they don’t want a dime spent on anything they don’t approve of. The problem is, on Nov 4, we bent over the righties and fucked them in the ass. The country rejected, ignored, laughed at and about the stupid, foolish, ridiculous, bullshit that comes from the republican party. We kicked their ass. We don’t care what they think. We’ll tax anyone, anytime, anyway we want and the right wing idiots can just sit there and shut the fuck up. They don’t matter. Their opinions don’t matter. What they believe doesn’t matter. What they want doesn’t matter. America stamped a big ol’ fucking REJECTED on the forehead of every idiot in the GOP.

    So righties – shut the fuck up and bend over. Your continued ass fucking awaits. Shitheads!

  24. 25

    Right Stuff spews:

    Ahh..
    The resident HA word wizard @24 enlightens us.

    Broken……..meet record……..

  25. 26

    gs spews:

    Go ahead, in fact I invite you to put an income tax of any type on the ballot this next year and at this time – and we will see who bends over.

    There is one hell of a lot of state cutting that should but isn’t being done before any Income tax will be rammed up anyone’s ass in this state. I guaranteeee it!

  26. 27

    gs spews:

    Hows about that State Hiring freeze I keep reading about and hearing about as I get millions of $$$ in new state jobs sent every week from their listserver.

    If that’s a hiring freeze we are in a f’n Heat Storm!

  27. 28

    Daddy Love spews:

    Personally, I’m all for wealth redistribution. We should tax more money from the rich and spend it for projects for the public good such as mass transportation, education, health care, and so on.

    The rich (say, the top 5%) will be only marginally worse off and the many, many ordinary people (who make up the other 95%) will be much better off.

    Now that’s a fair tax.

  28. 29

    Daddy Love spews:

    21 RS

    “so what’s wrong with spending a relatively paltry amount on public art to do the same thing?”

    Because that’s not the job of the government.

    There are some of us who do not want public buildings and public spaces to be styleless, soulless blocks of concrete. Your wishes to the contrary notwithstanding.

  29. 30

    Susan spews:

    As for our family, and as renters for the last couple of years we vote for all property tax increases. The rich property owners in this city need to pay their share.

    Rent rates are set only by supply and demand. As the economy in this state and city gets worse, demand and rent rates will both decrease. The only people that will be hurt will be the rich property owners. Thank goodness that there are enough voters like us to vote for the tax increases on the rich that will pay for extra services that will make our lives more enjoyable.

    Lets all stick together and make sure that property owners pay for our needs and wants. A special thanks to Gregoire, Sims and Nichols and the other liberals in this state for their support and understanding.

  30. 31

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    17. Roger Rabbit spews:
    @11 No, taxes are disagreeable things that we tolerate because they pay for things we want and need

     
    So paying for things you want and need are disagreeable?
     
    Your life must really suck.

  31. 32

    Marvin Stamn spews:

    28. Daddy Love spews:
    Personally, I’m all for wealth redistribution.
     
    The rich (say, the top 5%) will be only marginally worse off and the many, many ordinary people (who make up the other 95%) will be much better off.

     
    No surprise someone in the bottom 95% wants something for free.
     
    Why not go beg in the street if you need someone else to pay for you.