WashingtonVotes NEWS: Friday, January 20, 2017
House Democrats pass bill to cancel local property tax cut in committee, schedule and then cancel floor debate — twice.
Less than two weeks into this session, the legislature provided a glimpse into the coming battles over education funding, state spending, and taxes.
Democrats this week played “whack-a-mole” with a bill intended to cancel the property tax cut promised by lawmakers when they temporarily raised property taxes in 2010. Without the bill, the temporary increases would end in January 2018, restoring local property taxes to normal levels.
A week ago, the House Appropriations Committee passed HB 1059 on a party-line vote of 17 Democrats to 15 Republicans. The Democratic leadership then placed the bill on the House calendar for debate and vote by the full membership. House leaders cancelled the vote on Wednesday, re-scheduled it for Thursday, then cancelled it again.
The legislature passed a temporary increase in local levy rates in 2010 to provide a short-term increase in funding for schools. Property taxes are scheduled to return to normal levels next January. The proposed bill, HB 1059, would cancel the return to normal tax rates and delay the date for lowering property taxes by one year.
Liv Finne, Director of the Washington Policy Center’s Center for Education points out that school officials have known of the planned local tax reduction for seven years. See Liv’s blog Here. Most of them are preparing budgets to operate schools after the planned tax cut takes effect.
School district budgets have never been so well-funded. Districts across the state are hiring more teachers and support personnel and are giving their employees significant pay and benefit increases. Currently, fewer than half of school employees are teachers
Lawmakers have added $4.2 billion, an increase of 36%, to education spending in the last four years, and school district spending has increased by nearly $3,000 per student in the last four years, to the highest level in state history.
At this time it is unknown whether HB 1059 is dead for the session, or whether House leaders next week will make a third attempt to schedule the bill for floor action.