Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Queen Calls Special Session to Save Her Throne

Last year, a King County Superior Court judge struck down I-747 as being unconstitutional. I-747 was the ballot measure passed on 2001 that limited property tax increases to 1% a year without voter approval. One of the plaintiffs in that lawsuit was Whitman County.

Legal technicalities notwithstanding, it is clear what the intent of 58% of Washington voters was when they passed I-747. The Democratic supermajority in Olympia was urged last session to take action and restore the 1% property cap via legislation. The Rats punted, saying the Washington Supreme Court would reverse the decision. The Supreme Court, by a 5-4 margin, upheld the lower court decision last month. Oops. Bad timing for Queen Christine and the Dems, what with Dino Rossi throwing his hat into the 2008 gubernatorial race and recent polls showing the election a virtual dead heat. The recent passage of I-960 by voters shows, that despite numerous obituaries being written by the left, the taxpayer revolt in Washington is alive and well. Allowing a big tax increase to go forward is political hemlock for the Rats. And they only have themselves to blame. Earlier this year, they passed the largest spending increase in Washington history.

Now Queen Christine has called a special session of the legislature to restore the 1% property tax cap. As usual, she is demonstrating the cowardly, waffling, blow with the wind, lead from behind approach to governing she showed with the Alaskan Way Viaduct. As the Seattle Times story reported:
"I'm glad she has called the special session because we need to protect the will of the voters," Rossi said in a statement. "But I have a feeling she only took this step out of political expediency, not concern for the taxpayers."
But who cares as long as the 1% property tax cap gets restored.

Predictably, the "progressive" moonbats are howling, for example, here, here, and here.

And from the "strange political bedfellows" department, so are the Whitman County Commissioners. According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News website:
Whitman County Commissioner Greg Partch said the 1 percent cap makes it difficult for smaller taxing districts to operate and the move to reinstate the initiative is based on politics alone. For Whitman County, 1 percent only amounts to $37,000 a year in tax revenue.
Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson and City Supervisor John Sherman have applauded the overturn of I-747 and the Daily News editors opined last week that:
Bottom line, the control of property taxes was returned to the local governments where it belongs - but not before some budgetary belt-tightening.

Capping tax increases made it difficult to provide some services.

If Pullman or Colfax needs a 3-percent increase in property taxes to provide the services local residents demand, then those city councils should have the power to do so.

Local voters are an excellent barometer - through the ballot box - of how well those elected officials budget tax dollars. That power should not be in the hands of west side voters who think they can dictate - through the initiative process - how much tax is too much for people in Whitman County.

No one likes to raise taxes and responsible local government is no exception. But the need to increase taxes is necessary from time to time and is best done at the local level by those who know just how precious each penny is.
I sympathize with our local governments. But the reforms in Olympia need to be regulatory, not to the tax code. What would help Pullman and Whitman County more are drastic changes to the State Environmental Policy Act and the Department of Ecology. Wal-Mart would be in Pullman now, contributing over a million dollars a year to the tax base if not for the long, drawn out SEPA appeal process. The Pullman City Council must take some of the blame for this by mandating that SEPA appeals go through the superior court, which is why we have this latest delay of over a year in the appellate court. In most Washington towns, SEPA appeals are heard by the city council. In Whitman County, the Hawkins Companies development in the Pullman-Moscow corridor would be contributing $3 million plus to the tax coffers if not for the meddling by the Deprtment of Ecology. And let's not even get started on Ecology's business-killing stormwater requirements.

All this environmentalist nitwittery from Olympia cannot, and should not, be balanced on the backs of home owners. Housing in Whitman County is already among the least affordable in the state. Can you imagine how much more unaffordable housing would be with annual 4% property tax increases?

And its not just Whitman County. A recent WSU Center for Real Estate Research study concluded that the Growth Management Act has increased the cost of homes in Washington. The voters of this state spoke in 2001. Enough is enough. If cities and counties have a hard time making ends meet, then its time to clear away the dead wood of bureaucratic regulations, not reach deeper into taxpayer's wallets.

1 comment:

Satanic Mechanic said...

If this happened during the first two years of Commisar Gregroire's reign, she would not give a damn about I-747, but re-election time is coming.
Looks like she is hurting too. Got an automated poll call about her. I love messing with these things. Anyway, the phone call compared her against other democrats who would run against her and which one would you vote for. I naturally voted against Gregroire and I had no idea who the people they were matching her against was.
Hell, I would rather vote for a chimpanzee for governor than Gregroire anyday.