Op-ed: ‘Put Washington taxpayers first — not Olympia tax spenders!’

Rep. Vicki Kraft addresses the “sticker shock’’ many homeowners in Clark County are experiencing when they open their new property tax bills

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter Op-ed are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com

By Rep. Vicki Kraft

Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver
Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver

Many property owners in Clark County and across the state are experiencing “sticker shock” as they open their new property tax bills. Property owners are discovering those taxes are up by as much as several hundred, and in some cases, thousands of dollars.

It’s another broken promise by the majority in the Legislature that said three years ago the state portion of property taxes would slightly go up temporarily during a mid-course change to address the McCleary education funding agreement but would eventually decrease. Yet the levy lid they put into place during that agreement that would have protected taxpayers was lifted last year. The decrease didn’t happen.

As you opened that property tax bill and wondered how you’re going to pay it, majority Democrat budget writers in Olympia were celebrating the news from the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, which reported tax collections will be up by $1.1 billion over the next four years. This windfall now means the state’s operating budget has a $2.4 billion surplus!

Rep. Vicki Kraft addresses the “sticker shock’’ many homeowners in Clark County are experiencing when they open their new property tax bills.

Let that sink in for a moment. As taxpayers feel the triple punch from property tax increases, an enormous business and occupation (B&O) tax increase on certain service businesses passed in the last hours of the 2019 session, and a new service B&O tax on 14,000 businesses that was one of the first 2020 session bills signed into law, state government in Olympia is sitting on a pile of surplus cash — $2.4 billion.

Let’s talk about the difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to this money.

On Jan. 19, the day the revenue forecast was released, all 40 House Republicans, myself included, co-sponsored the Working Families Tax Relief measure, House Bill 2946. Our proposal would uphold voters’ demand for $30 car tabs while protecting funding for roads, and eliminate the sales tax on prepared food items and personal hygiene products sold at grocery stores. In total, $1 billion in tax relief.

In addition, Republicans introduced House Bill 2954, which would reduce the state property tax rate for 2021, 2022 and 2023. This is YOUR money. We think you should get at least some of it back.

On Feb. 24, majority Democrats unveiled their 2019-21 supplemental operating budget. There’s NO tax relief and no action to implement the $30 car tabs. Instead, their proposal would increase spending on new or expanded programs by $2 billion, bringing state spending to $53.8 billion – 20 percent higher than last year – and a 75 percent spending increase since 2013.

Democrats could have funded the governor’s entire supplemental budget he proposed in December, provided $1 billion of tax relief for working families, and still had more than $700 million in surplus. Instead, their budget would spend all but $59 million of the surplus, creating an enormous bow wave into the future. It’s simply not sustainable. And if the state’s economy dips in the future, we’ll likely see huge shortfalls, painful cuts or further tax increases like we did in 2009. That’s why I am a firm NO on this budget plan.

There’s still time to change this course. The 2020 session is scheduled to adjourn March 12.

Instead of taking more of your hard-earned dollars while they blow through a surplus on an Olympia-style spending spree, they need to remember where that money came from – be accountable to Washington’s taxpayers – and give some of it back in tax relief. And finally, LISTEN to voters and enact $30 car tabs.

Go to www.leg.wa.gov and email Democratic lawmakers to tell them you want your money back. Or call the toll-free legislative hotline: 1-800-562-6000.

Tell them it’s time to put Washington taxpayers AHEAD of Olympia tax spenders!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver, represents the 17th Legislative District and is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

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