OLYMPIA — Sen. Lisa Wellman, Rep. Tana Senn, and Rep. Judy Clibborn, Democrats from Mercer Island, voted against a Republican proposal to increase property taxes statewide by $4 billion over the next four years to pay for public schools as a solution to solve the state’s education funding crisis.
Nearly all lawmakers agreed tax increases would be necessary to meet the state’s obligations this session. Democrats favored progressive revenue options that mostly targeted high-income earners. In the end, the Legislature agreed to adopt a Republican-sponsored statewide property tax increase that will result in every property owner seeing an increase in their property tax bill next year.
“This plan makes an historic investment in our K-12 education obligations primarily through a tax plan that will dramatically raise property taxes across the 41st Legislative District,” Wellman said. “It’s basically a Democratic education funding solution coupled with Republican tax plan. This was the unfortunate compromise that was made to avert a statewide government shutdown.”
Initial projections for House Bill 2242 indicate homeowners in Bellevue, Mercer Island, Sammamish and Issaquah, will see among the largest property tax increases in the state.
- Median family homes in the Bellevue School District will see an estimated $2,840 increase in property taxes over four years.
- Mercer Island: $4,380
- Issaquah: $3,240
- Lake Washington: $2,710
- Renton: $1,170
Each of the school districts will receive increased education funding, with Lake Washington receiving the most at $105,924,220 and Mercer Island receiving the least at $11,970,349 in new funding by the 2020-21 school year. (Full details for each school district can be found here.)
Earlier this session, House Democrats introduced a progressive revenue package, which included a capital gains excise tax on wealthy investors, and modified real estate excise tax and B&O rates, which would spare seniors and lower- and middle-class households.
Senate Republicans consistently rejected these progressive reforms. With just days to go before coming to what would be the first government shutdown in state history, House Democrats agreed to a compromise budget that included the Republican statewide property tax increases.
“Given our robust economy, we knew our district would pay more into the state coffers to pay for the statewide education funding plan. However, I would have preferred progressive revenue options aimed at our highest earners versus a property tax affecting 100 percent of our residents,” said Senn. “I’m very upset that we were not able to pursue other options like closing more tax loopholes or adjusting the business and occupation tax rates to help small businesses.”
There were important policy changes in the bill, including the state paying teacher salaries with regionalization taken into account. However, there were also some bitter pills for the Eastside lawmakers, like putting a cap on the number of early release and late start days at seven for the year and the loss of flexibility on the use of levies.
“Voting against the education funding bill, which was years in the making, was a tough vote. But the impact to our taxpayers, especially seniors on fixed incomes and renters, was just too high of a price to pay,” explained Clibborn.