Legislature gives cities, counties right to raise taxes - after a vote

JOSEPH TURNER; The News Tribune


Olympia, WA - The Legislature late Tuesday voted to give cities and counties the power to boost their property and sales taxes, as long as they get voter approval first.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 5659 by a hefty margin, even after an intensive lobbying campaign - largely by e-mail - that antitax crusader Tim Eyman and supporters mounted to get the measure defeated.

Sen. Don Carlson (R-Vancouver) took note of the e-mails just before he voted in favor of the measure. Most of the e-mails he received from constituents and others were deceptive, Carlson said.

Eyman's e-mails characterized the bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Winsley (R-Fircrest), as a huge tax increase. However, the e-mails omitted the fact that no local taxes would be raised unless local voters approved them in an election.

SB 5659 would allow counties to raise the local sales tax by as much a 0.3 percent and share the money with cities. It also would let counties raise their property tax collections by as much as 6 percent a year for six years at a time, as long as voters approve.

Winsley said local governments, particularly Pierce County, are chafing under tax limitations imposed by Initiative 747. The measure, put on the ballot by Eyman's supporters and approved by voters in 2001, says local governments can increase their property tax collections by no more than 1 percent unless voters approve a higher amount each year.

Winsley said elections for the tax increase could be held only on the date of the September primary or November general elections, not in the spring.

The House also approved the measure, which now goes to the governor.


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