Rep. Joe Schmick | Olympia needs a dose of fiscal reality
When our state's budget surplus reached approximately $15 billion last year, many of us felt it was time to give some of that back to taxpayers in the form of meaningful property tax relief. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Instead, Democrat budget writers continued a decade-long trend of spending just about every dime given to them. They even changed some rules to take money that should have gone into the state's rainy-day fund, just so they could spend it on new programs and entitlements.
While this year's budget surplus was far smaller at just less than $3 billion, taxpayers should still be at the forefront of budget decisions in Olympia. Unfortunately, they are not.
In fact, at a time when state spending has more than doubled over the past 10 years, there is now serious talk in Olympia of further property tax increases.
With just a few days left in the legislative session, Democrats introduced Senate Bill 5770 which would triple the growth rate of state and local property taxes.
Currently, there is a 1% annual cap on property tax increases which was established by voters in 2001 via Initiative 747. This new Senate bill would raise that limit to 3%. It is estimated that in just six years, this property tax increase will cost taxpayers an additional $4.1 billion!
This potential property tax increase comes at a time when homeowners are seeing massive increases in their home valuations. Which is nice if you want to sell your home; not so nice when your property tax bill goes up by double digit percentage points.
But it doesn't stop there.
Budget writers from the majority party in Olympia are also seriously considering an increase in the real estate excise tax (REET). This is a tax imposed on the sale of property and will apply to many multifamily projects, potentially driving up rents and make housing more expensive.
In normal times, these two potential tax increases would be frustrating. Republican lawmakers would join with taxpayers in asking budget writers to justify these increases. Unfortunately, these are not normal times.
Inflation continues to drive up the cost of daily necessities for Washington families. Our state has the nation's fourth-highest gas prices which will undoubtedly continue to skyrocket as Gov. Jay Inslee's carbon tax fully kicks in. Energy prices continue to go up as do food prices.
As I mentioned in a previous column, workers will have less money in their paychecks beginning July 1 to fund the Democrat's unnecessary and mostly unwanted long-term care plan.
Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court issued a stunning ruling that went against the IRS, every other state in the nation, and in fact, every other nation on earth when it said a capital gains tax is not an income tax. This Democrat policy will most likely lead to an income tax here in our state, despite voters rejecting the idea multiple times over the years.
The fact is, Washingtonians are struggling. From health care to higher education; from rising fuel costs to rising food costs; from energy and rent increases to higher home values and higher property taxes. Washington individuals and families are feeling pinched from every side. When state government joins the fray, it only adds insult to unnecessary injury.
Olympia needs a dose of fiscal reality.
I don't know many of my constituents who have seen their take-home pay double over the past 10 years. At a time when many families are having to make tough decisions on what to sacrifice to make ends meet, Democrats in the state Legislature are continuing to increase state spending to unprecedented and unsustainable levels.
I have served on the budget writing committee for the state House of Representatives for more than a decade. I have tried to be a voice of fiscal restraint; of making budget writers justify their excessive increases in state programs and entitlements.
However, their inability to say “no” to any of their special interest groups, and their inability to see the struggle of the average taxpayer, has led us to where we are now: on the cusp of more tax increases at a time of record state spending.
(Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, is the ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee and serves on the House Appropriations Committee.)
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