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747 Is No More

November 8th, 2007 by Steven Gardner

In response to the state Supreme Court’s decision overturning I-747, Gov. Chris Gregoire sent the following statement:

“I know that voters must be disappointed by the court decision to overturn I-747. As we know, voters approved I-747 by a wide margin in 2001.

“As Governor, I am asking the state, counties, cities and all other taxing districts to assure me that they will not increase property tax levies for their upcoming budgets as a result of the court decision. In addition, I will be asking the Legislature, in January, to work with me to thoughtfully reinstate a property tax cap.

“We heard loud and clear on Tuesday evening that voters are concerned about their tax burden. I believe that it is our responsibility to move quickly, recognizing taxpayers’ concerns and reinstating the will of the voters. “

Joe Turner from the News Tribune in Tacoma points out that “a cap” doesn’t mean the governor wants “a 1 percent cap.”

One of the things I asked Eyman this morning is the Legislature responds with anything other than the exact limits of 747, would he then launch a new initiative for 2008. Eyman answered:

“Sure, but it will only be more restrictive.”

He said legislators and others who want something higher don’t get that the 1 percent cap is the compromise position. He said there are a lot of taxpayers who want property tax reductions and local government types who want more than 6 percent per year.

All this stems from the State Supreme Court agreed with a lower court decision that Initiative 747, which limited local government property tax increases to 1 percent plus new construction, was unconstitutional.

The 5-4 decision means local governments can, if they’ve got the political guts/nerve to do it, increase property taxes by 6 percent next year. Tim Eyman, who authored the initiative, said they also could go back all the years the 1 percent law was in place and collect the 5 percent for each year they didn’t get while an unconstitutional law was in place.

I spoke to several legislators. Eyman said House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, is the only one who matters and he believes Chopp will get the limits of 747 back into law.

State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said she hopes the Legislature doesn’t jump in as the “hero” on this the way it did when Initiative 695, which reduced car tab fees to $30, was ruled unconstitutional.

“What my hope is that the Legislature won’t just jump in without thinking about it,” she said.

She said the court’s decision was good for cities and counties, “because they’ve been suffering with that 1 percent limit.

She acknowledged that with the governor up for re-election and with her party so far in control in the Legislature, the party would be risking their political lives by doing anything other than taking its own action to reinstate the 1 percent standard.

“That’s true. Part of why people are elected is to show courage and leadership,” she said. “This is one time where we have to be very careful. I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do.”

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said he would support legislation that would put 747’s limits back in place.

“There is a legitimate concern about property taxes and I’m sensitive to make sure that people who’ve worked hard and play by the rules don’t get taxed out of their homes,” Kilmer said.

The senator said state legislators can help local governments at the same time by “not jamming” them with new rules without giving them the means to enforce them. ”If there’s a proposal before the legislature that we want local government to do something, it should be important that we provide the funding to do it,” he said.

Bremerton City Councilman Will Maupin said he doesn’t think the decision will have any impact on his city’s 2008 budget process. The council has on its agenda Wednesday a resolution to set the 2008 property tax levy in accordance with 747.

“I would be very surprised at this point that we would want to do anything different than that,” he said.

He said the news probably arrived too close to the city’s budget deadlines. “Besides that, we just got a clear message from the people that they’re really unhappy with their tax situation,” he said.

Bremerton voters Tuesday overwhelmingly turned down the city’s request for a property tax hike to beef up park improvements. “With the mood people are in right now I don’t see us doing anything other than the 1 percent increase,” he said.

In an e-mail Eyman sent this morning, he wrote:

“We’re in for absolute chaos. For six years, local governments (counties, cities, ports, library districts, fire districts, cemetary districts, parks districts, etc.) have been held to a 1% levy each year. Since I-747 no longer exists, local governments now suddenly have the unused taxing authority that they’ve accumulated over the past six years (5% per year — 6% instead of 1%). That means that each local government now has the power to jack up property taxes 30% this fall without a vote of the people (I-747 required voter approval — now that I-747 is overturned, voter approval is no longer be required). Every local government knows that if they don’t take advantage of the situation and unilaterally increase taxes using this unused taxing authority, the Legislature in 2008 might take that authority away.”

I also got comments from State Reps. Christine Rolfes and Kathy Haigh, who both like the 1 percent cap, state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, who is open to some wiggle room in whatever happens in Olympia and Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman. I’ll post those later and will continue to update this entry.

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8 Responses to “747 Is No More”

  1. D. Franks Says:

    I’m with Kilmer. With the apparent passage of I-960, and the response to the “transit” bills and the school levy bill, the people of this state have spoken. “NO NEW TAXES.”

  2. Mike Eliason Says:

    Kudos to Will Maupin for honoring the public’s wishes.

  3. Jake Metcalf Says:

    Steve you should go ask Mayor Bozeman about this. He has stated in the past that the 1% limit that was imposed by I -747 has directly impacted Bremerton’s ability to provide law enforcement as population shifted. Also the fire chiefs that spoke to the Kitsap Democrats Central Committee blamed I-747 for the reason for putting the fire district on a path to bankruptcy and that is why they needed the past fire district levy.

    Not only was i-747 unconstitutional but I blame it for making the crimewave in Bremerton worse and it created problems dealing with the meth epidemic.

  4. James M. Olsen Says:

    Timing on release of the decision 2 days after election is very telling. If WASUPREMES has released 2 weeks before election day, there would have been road kill even more than we see on tax-spend issues.

    Pretty amazing to see WASupremes confirm right of political ads to lie yet they think the voters can’t read the words in front of them.

    What gives with two pro-tems doing the dirty deed?

    This will be a Golden Goose for Rossi. Voters have made their disdain for more Dem taxes clear. What don’t they undstand about the word “NO”? There is going to be a high price to pay for this one.

    May Eyman and his magicians redraft and have the next ballot out within the week.

    Hey, legislators, raise it above 1% and do it with gusto as the taxpayers will hold your feet to the fire — or worse.

    Voters — the message is ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching . . .

  5. Gary J Says:

    Publish the names of the justices who voted to over rule the will of the people. We will remember and over rule those justices in the next election cycle

  6. James M. Olsen Says:

    Voting for this lame ruling: Chief Justice Alexander, Justice Bobby Briggs and Pro-tems Mutt and Jeff.

    Read Josh Brown’s quote in today’s paper. You can see his trembling hand reaching for the taxpayer wallet saying he couldn’t control himself. The “Temptation” defense is on his mind.

    When was the last time the taxpayer got a windfall relief like taxing agencies think they just got from this lame ruling? Oh, that’s right, 2001 when the voters overwhelmingly voted for 747.

  7. Tom Rosendale Says:

    In some ways this is good news. This is a forced litmus test on politicians of all walks to see if they care about the strong majority of constituents or making their jobs easier with more cash from the same constituents.

    With this ruling and the last, which allows lying in elections, we have great hope of returning decency to and ousting politics from our Supreme Court next election.

  8. Tom Rosendale Says:

    James Olsen,
    I think it extremely important to place blame where due and not on people who in fact supported the citizens on this issue.

    Judge Alexander wasn’t just against this ruling, he wrote the Dissent!

    The justices that deem the citizenry ignorant are:
    Bobbe Bridge
    Barbara Madsen
    Susan Owens
    Teresa Kulik (pro tem)
    and pro tem Stephen Brown

    The justices that say anybody either reading the pamphlet or aware of the hotly debated issue would know what they were doing were:

    Chief Justice Gerry Alexander
    Charles Johnson
    Richard Sanders
    Tom Chambers

    Justice Jim Johnson excused himself as he was apparently an original sponsor of I-747

    It’s just a coincidence, but if you want an easy way to remember the names, those permanent justices thinking citizens are too ignorant were all females and those thinking voters capable were all males.

    If you think gender had anything to do with this, remember it was the male temporary Stephen Brown who in essence tossed it away from the people.

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