E-News: Senate majority bows to pressure, drops bid for record property-tax increase

Hello Friends and Neighbors,

If you own property or a home or rent your home… this week didn’t start out well. My colleagues in the Senate majority were all set to open the door to the largest property-tax increase in Washington history.

The bill to enable this (SB 5770) was approved Monday by 13 of the 14 Democrats on our Senate Ways and Means Committee; we were prepared for it to come up for a full Senate vote yesterday, then today.

Yesterday morning I and other Republican senators held a news conference to call attention to this bill, which is the worst of the session so far. A link is here (it begins at the 4:00 mark). Pressure from the resulting publicity (click here for an example) apparently convinced the prime sponsor, a Seattle Democrat, to drop the bill for this year. That’s the right decision for several reasons, and made for a better end to this week. Still, taxpayers should be outraged that the bill got as far as it did. Click here for the initial news report about the bill’s demise.

As of today we’re midway through a week-long stretch of voting in the Senate chamber, considering Senate legislation that already won committee approval. Three of my prime-sponsored bills have already been passed, with several more to go. Details are below.

House Democrats again balking at getting serious about fentanyl

Nearly 20 years ago the Legislature made it a crime to knowingly expose a child to methamphetamine… it’s called “endangerment with a controlled substance.” The Senate has voted twice, nearly unanimously, to add fentanyl and other synthetic opioids to the list along with meth, but House Democrats still aren’t allowing any vote on my SB 5010.

Specifically, the bill is stuck again in the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee. Last year the chair, 45th District Rep. Roger Goodman of Kirkland, allowed a hearing but no vote, and told me his caucus wouldn’t support the bill. After the Senate voted Jan. 24 to pass my bill a second time, I’ve asked Representative Goodman multiple times for a hearing on the bill once we’re past this stretch of floor voting, but am getting no response.

It’s especially frustrating because the senator for his district, who is chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee, has voted for my bill both times.

Should fentanyl be treated less seriously than meth? No. Don’t kids who are injured by exposure to fentanyl deserve justice too? Yes. Now that the battle over the local-government property-tax increase is over for the year, I can focus more on this.

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Property-tax debate exposes misinformation about voter-approved limit

Some proponents of the Senate Democrats’ effort to triple the allowable annual growth rate of property taxes claimed government is prohibited from exceeding the 1% voter-approved cap. That is false.

The 1% cap is on “councilmanic” increases – meaning only a (county or city) council vote is necessary. Nothing about that cap prevents a city or county council from asking its voters for an increase larger than 1%. If the people say yes to a 2% or 3% increase, that’s democracy in action. I see no need to make it easier for local government to do an end run on the voters.

As background, this important taxpayer protection originated with Initiative 747, passed in 2001. In November 2007, just a few weeks after the state Supreme Court invalidated the law on a technicality, Washington’s Democratic governor (Gov. Gregoire) called a Democratic-controlled Legislature back to the Capitol to quickly put the limit back into law.

The 3% cap proposed in Senate Bill 5770 may not sound like much of a difference, but the compounding effect (3% in year 1, 3% more in year 2, etc.) would take an estimated $6 billion from property owners over the next 10 years if fully implemented, and perhaps $1 billion more every year after that.

The local governments in our 17th District did not ask me for this additional taxing authority. More than 9,300 people signed in to testify on SB 5770 when it came before our Ways and Means committee back on Jan. 18. Of those, 92% opposed the bill. But the committee moved it forward anyway, this past Monday,

It’s amazing how the majority side complains about regressive taxes, and the lack of affordable housing in Washington – then all but one of the majority members on the budget committee say yes to tripling the allowable growth rate of a regressive tax, which will further reduce the supply of affordable housing.

On top of that, the bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group (which existed into 2023) had surveyed people about the 1% cap. Two-thirds opposed raising it at all, and of the people of color who were surveyed, nearly three-fourths said no to this increase.

I’d like to think this is the last time we will see such a proposal, but the majority has a history of pursuing legislation that accommodates government greed.

Wilson bills on the move

If you follow my legislative Facebook page, you already know three more bills of mine are on their way to the House of Representatives.

On Tuesday, our first day of nothing but floor votes, the Senate passed SB 5590, my bill to create a Mount St. Helens special license plate. When we passed the bill in 2023, there wasn’t as much time left in the session, and the House didn’t bring it to a vote. We’re giving them another try and more time this year… and it’s already scheduled for a Feb. 14 hearing in the House!

The next morning the Senate easily approved my SB 6291, to start reforming how the State Building Code Council does business. This bill would, for instance, improve how timelines are set for adopting, changing and repealing building codes.

Later Wednesday afternoon the Senate voted unanimously for SB 6234, my legislation to support screening of newborns for BCKDK… “branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase kinase deficiency.” This is a treatable neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by autism, intellectual disability and microcephaly.

Three more of my prime-sponsored bills – SB 5836, SB 6263 and SB 5906 – are on the Senate voting calendar. The latter is my “One Pill Kills” anti-fentanyl legislation. That needs to get through this year for sure, along with my SB 5010!


I hope you will reach out whenever you have a comment or question about your state government. Have an amazing day!

Yours in service,

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