Category Archives: Taxation

Speaking of New Library Taxes

It seems the Kitsap Regional Library Board faces a steep climb if it does indeed ask voters to approve a library levy id lift in November.

Comments on a story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun sounded a lot like this one from jetvilleres:
“With the internet available just about everywhere these days, who needs a library anyway. And for all you parents with kids, books are cheap at the Goodwill and Value Village.”

Comments like that outnumbered comments like this from Robin_in_Manette:
“We have an excellent library system. Good luck with the levy!”

The board will make a decision on whether to run the levy in the next few months. In the meantime, they’re keeping their eyes on the economy, voters’ moods, other possible measures that could run at the same time and “political” factors, including the possibility that Port Orchard’s library could join the KRL system.

Finance committee chairman Rob Putaansuu, says annexing into the library district would give Port Orchard residents a say in any library levy lid lift. Putaansuu and other council members have said it would not amount to a tax increase, and that’s true … in one respect. Port Orchard property owners would not see an increase in their library tax, but, according to Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery, the city could raise its levy rate as a direct result of the library annexation.

To give credit where credit is due, I got the heads up about this from a piece by South Kitsap columnist Bob Meadows, who gave a detailed explanation. I’ll try to give the Cliff Notes version.

Port Orchard residents have access to the same books, CDs and other materials available to KRL patrons. They can check out and return those materials at any KRL branch. And they pay the same library property tax rate as KRL patrons, but they pay it in the form of a Port Orchard library tax as opposed to the regional library district tax. The city forwards revenue from its library tax to KRL, essentially acting as a pass through agency.

As Meadows points out, Port Orchard’s annexation into the library district would create a gap or void between its highest allowable tax rate and the amount it actually collects, presenting the council with the opportunity to raise taxes. Avery calls it bonus taxing capacity. Significantly, the council would not be required to act on the option immediately, but they could “bank” the increase for future use.

I’ll let Avery explain the details:

“This is the same thing we saw play out when the fire district annexed all of Port Orchard (and Poulsbo) several years ago.

The City of Port Orchard and other regular taxing districts are limited by two things when it comes to how much they can levy in property taxes each year. They cannot levy above a statutory maximum levy rate (dollars per thousand of assessed value). And as long as they do not exceed that rate they can levy 1% above their “highest allowable” levy amount, exclusive of new construction.

The “highest allowable” amount is usually their prior year’s levy. Because our assessed value increased dramatically from 2002-2007 levy rates were driven down to a point where they generally are not a factor unless voters have recently approved a levy rate increase.

The problem creating all the confusion here is that while annexing districts (e.g. fire, library and cities) who are increasing the size of their district get to add an appropriate amount above the 1% to their “highest allowable” levy amount, there is no corresponding reduction to the “highest allowable” levy amount from the district that is losing property (emphasis mine, CTH). Logic would suggest that there should be a required reduction to the levy amount when a service area is reduced.

In this case with the proposed annexation of the City Port Orchard to the regional library district, even if the city chooses not to take the bonus levy capacity of about $370,000 in the year following annexation, the money is still banked and available for future use.

It seems to me it is going to take a very strong resolution on the part of the city council to convince the voters in the city that they will not see higher taxes as a result of annexation to the library. And then of course any resolution made by this council can be undone by future councils.
Jim Avery
Kitsap County Assessor

Health Care War Continues in Washington

On Tuesday the president signed the health care reform bill, which to some is a BFD, and I’m not talking about fire departments. Locals were talking about it. Also on Tuesday some state attorneys general, including ours, joined in a lawsuit questioning the constitutionality of some of the bill’s provisions.

In response the Legislature might write into the budget a provision limiting the AG’s ability to offer such a lawsuit.

It all made for interesting radio on KIRO Tuesday. State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Gov. Chris Gregoire and U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, were all on the Dave Ross show. McKenna made a repeat appearance on the Dori Monson show.

If you’ve got a few minutes, and if you’re here you clearly do, listen to the conversations. They’re available after the jump.

McKenna is clearly in the position that elements of the bill are unconstitutional, and he goes to some length to argue why. Gregoire and Inslee both say his interpretation is wrong, but spend more time talking about what impact it would have if McKenna’s case is ultimately upheld in the courts. If you’re a fan of the bill, that should worry you.

The U.S. Justice Department plans to defend the bill, so it isn’t as if no one thinks the bill passes muster. The problem comes, though, because the attorneys general could win. McKenna argues that they’re only going after particular elements of the bill, but Inslee and others argue that the elements they’re going after are pins that hold the whole thing up. Kill the mandate and you’ve essentially killed the bill.

The next question, then, is do Republicans really want to win this fight? If they do, will it give Democrats the opening to put forward something closer to a single-payer system? Dave Ross argues that if you turn this whole thing into a tax, rather than a forced entry into the market, you probably don’t get the same constitutional debate. At least those kind of cases have been argued and settled in the past.

Continue reading

Kitsap House Members Split on 960 Suspension

Unlike the Senate, there was one House member whose vote didn’t match how voters in her district voted in 2007.

We had the story earlier how State Sens. Derek Kilmer and Tim Sheldon voted against the suspension of I-960, which had the requirement that tax increases get a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature, among other things. Voters in their district supported 960 in 2007. Voters in the 23rd District did not, and their senator, Phil Rockefeller, voted for the suspension.

House members in the 23rd and 26th Districts, held to form. State Reps. Christine Rolfes and Sherry Appleton voted for the suspension. Larry Seaquist and Jan Angel voted against it.

In the 35th District the vote was split. Fred Finn voted against suspension, while Kathy Haigh voted for it.

Poulsbo Legislator Says ‘Legalize It’

“I’m going to ask you a straightforward question: isn’t it true that you have, perhaps unwillingly, acquired a certain habit through association with certain undesirable people?” See the context here.

There has been significant scuttlebutt about decriminalizing marijuana in this state. Earlier we had fun with Bremerton’s beer caucus status in a post that mentioned that House Speaker Frank Chopp might be willing to discuss the idea.

House Bill 2401, however, would legalize marijuana, a significant step beyond the look-the-other-way stance of decriminalization. State Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, is one of the co-sponsors.

“I believe that we have done a terrible job on the war on drugs. The truth is there are many citizens who do smoke marijuana,” Appleton said. The legislator characterized pot as Washington’s largest cash crop, one that the state sees no revenue from.

And that may be one of the reasons to bring the conversation up now. “This would be a way of not only saving money by not having to prosecute people who use small amounts of pot,” she said, the state could tax it and sell it like it does liquor, at state liquor stores. “Millions of people smoke pot and we’re not deriving any taxation from it.”

Not that she’s optimistic Washingtonians will be able to purchase weed over the counter anytime soon. “I don’t have any illusions that this is going to pass this year, but we’ve never had the conversation in a hearing or otherwise,” she said.

Appleton said Chopp has indicated he would allow a conversation about marijuana this session.

I’ll be talking to someone from law enforcement for a story for print and the main site this weekend.

California may be headed toward legalization, either through legislation or voter initiative. The federal government could disallow such a move. If California does successfully legalize marijuana, however, it makes it all the more likely that Oregon and Washington would follow suit. Better that, many will argue, then letting potential tax dollars leave the state.

Appleton said she does not smoke marijuana herself. Her husband died of cancer a year ago. “Pot was probably something that could have made him pain free. So it is personal to me in the sense that I think we spend too much time putting people in jail for doing something millions of people do and get away with,” she said.

Good News! We’re Not as Bad Off as California, Oregon . . .

Got a report to tell you about, but first let’s dig into some context.

Like any educated citizen, I rely on talk radio for much of my information.

Earlier this year one host in particular was making the case that Washington’s deficit budget shortfall was actually worse than California’s, because per capita it was higher, or close to it, or something. I suspected the talker might astonishingly be incorrect about that, but the Seattle Times backed him up, kind of.

Turns out he was incredibly wrong.

My suspicion about it was based on the notion California had reached its $42 million hole after years of dealing with other holes. So, if after years of wrangling and cutting everything we could we were still left with the same hole we had last year, then that would be a California-sized problem. That makes the talker wrong, but not incredibly so.

The incredible part comes in once you realize California’s budget is done every year. Washington’s is for every two years. So take Washington’s deficit and divide by two. Uh oh.

It still might be bad, but it’s not California bad.

So now the Pew Center on the States, a think tank that studies state issues, listed 10 states that are “in fiscal peril.” Guess what! Washington isn’t on the list!

If you look at the study itself this is not to suggest Washington is in good shape, it’s just not among the worst 10. It is tied with three states for 14th. From the press release for the study:

California’s financial problems are in a league of their own. But the same pressures that drove the Golden State toward fiscal disaster are wreaking havoc in a number of states, with potentially damaging consequences for the entire country.

This examination by the Pew Center on the States looks closely at nine states, in addition to California, that are particularly affected by the recession. All of California’s neighbors–Arizona, Nevada and Oregon–and fellow Sun Belt state Florida were severely hit by the bursting housing bubble, landing them on Pew’s list of states facing fiscal difficulties similar to California’s. A Midwestern cluster of states comprising Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin emerged, too, as did the Northeastern states of New Jersey and Rhode Island.

From the press release you can download the study if you like.

Pew compiled its list based on high foreclosure rates, increasing joblessness, loss of state revenues, the
relative size of budget gaps, legal obstacles to balanced budgets—specifically, a supermajority requirement for some or all tax increases or budget bills, and poor money-management practices.

Where Washington appeared to fare badly was in the size of the budget deficit and the fact that Washington is one of 17 states to require a supermajority to raise taxes.

Realtors Against 1033

We don’t make much out of endorsements, as the Kitsap County Association of Realtors can probably attest. That group came out with a list of endorsements, which I’ll post at the bottom of this letter, but we didn’t put it in print. A lot of groups endorse things. Were we to name all of them that’s all we’d be printing. We don’t want to ignore them, necessarily, but we don’t want to get yelled at for missing one either.

The parent of the local real estate professionals, Washington Realtors, sent an announcement that surprised me. The organization is officially against Initiative 1033. As I mentioned, I was surprised, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. The group supported Dino Rossi for governor in 2008, but also backed a gas tax increase in 2005. Maybe that should tell me that the group is not predictably conservative.

As for 1033, which would limit government growth to inflation plus population growth, the state organization says it trusts the governor and Legislature to keep spending in line, that the initiative process shouldn’t be used in this case. From the press release, the full copy of which I’ll post after the jump:

“The legislature and the governor proved last spring that they can address the state’s budget problems without increasing taxes,” said Greg Wright, 2009 President of the Washington Realtors. “Rather than turn these complex public policy issues over to the initiative process, we should hold our elected representatives accountable for meeting state and local needs within existing revenue.”

Eyman later issued a response, not so much to the Realtors alone, but to the claim that the “No on 1033” crowd has a lot of group support.

“Groups don’t vote, people do. Voters decide how to vote on initiatives based on their own experiences and values — they don’t look to ‘groups’ to tell them how to think — they think for themselves.”

The list of I-1033 group opposition is long, including Washington ACORN. The Realtors endorsement is new enough that it wasn’t on the list, but in my glance at it I didn’t see any other surprises.

Following are the press release by Washington Realtors and the one by Eyman.

Continue reading

All Tax Revenues Go Down in Bad Times

I got an e-mail yesterday from Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center. He linked to a column written by Joni Balter at the Seattle Times. The piece calls into question something that’s come up here on this blog in the past.

In particular she writes about the claims here that we need an income tax, because it’s more stable. In Oregon they’re arguing they need a sales tax, because it’s more stable. Balter writes:

“The money is always greener on the other side.”

She cites studies that show that all tax systems suffer when the economy is down. Balter writes that a combo of both taxes might be the ticket, but:

“. . . voters in both states will never trust politicians to improve the tax system because the clamor for change usually arises when politicians seek more money.”

Mercier argues for healthier spending:

“There is one way to avoid catching the budget flu, however: spend healthier (more responsibly) and not stay up all night binging away your savings.

Regardless of how you slice up the tax structure, states need to use a “three-legged stool” of sound budgeting:

  • Meaningful spending limit;
  • Protected 10% reserve account (so you don’t have to resort to tax increases or deep spending cuts in the bad times); and
  • Limiting base expenditures to core functions within the revenue forecast.

Here are the types of questions that should be asked before any activity receives taxpayer money:

  • Is the activity a core function of government or commercial in nature?
  • If it is a core function, can the service be provided more efficiently and effectively through competitive contracting?
  • Does it provide a broad public benefit or only serve a special interest?
  • Does it duplicate the activities of non-profits or other private initiatives?
  • Does it duplicate the efforts of other state agencies or programs?
  • Does the activity demonstrate quantifiable performance?

Mercier also links to a story about California. That state has both taxes and is also in a world of hurt. But California has other issues — voter initiatives, budget rules, term limits — that have made its problems unique.

Tolls to Pay Taxes, or Not

On the Senate side there is a question that could determine how quickly the Tacoma Narrows bridge debt is retired. In a bill specifying how bridge tolls could be used, state Rep. Larry Seaquist added an amendment that would take deferred sales taxes for the bridge’s construction and make the bridge exempt.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen asked the lieutenant governor to rule that amendment was out of the scope of the bill. She argued that exempting sales taxes has nothing to do with limiting the use of toll money.

State Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, argued that the exemption amendment is within the scope, saying that paying sales taxes would become a “non-permitted use” under the amendment.

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen will give his decision tomorrow.

Tea Party Irony

Chris Henry covered the local tea parties.

I didn’t get to attend any of the events. Instead, I watched the stirring debate about whether Bainbridge Island should go from a strong mayor model to a council-manager form. All kidding aside, I enjoyed it and learned something.

During Wednesday’s Bremerton City Council meeting I was struck by the irony about the tea parties that as protesters were gathered down the street on the Bremerton boardwalk, the city council was approving a move by Bremerton Police to apply for grants to hire new officers, money that will come from the federal government’s stimulus package. There were no protesters there.

Local Tea Parties

Chris Henry is working on the story about Wednesday’s tea parties, a 2009 version of a tax revolt. Leave it to her to be ahead of the game. Good work Chris!

There have been other tea parties prior to the one tomorrow at different locations on different days. The movement got its roots, according to the Tax Day Tea Party site, when CNBC’s Rick Santelli railed against U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for housing bailouts. Santelli referenced a “tea party” in Chicago in July. Tax revolters were not that patient. (Santelli’s rant is posted at the bottom.)

There will be at least two Wednesday in Kitsap County. One will be at Bethel and Lund in Port Orchard from 4-8 p.m. Another will be on the boardwalk in Bremerton at 6 p.m. The Kitsap County Republican Party has been sending out some information about the local and state events. The Bremerton group has a Web site.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune has information about the one planned for the capitol, including mention that folks from Kitsap County are planning to meet with the Pierce County caravan at the Krispy Kreme before heading to Olympia.

Some in the movement are using “teabagging” as shorthand to describe the event. I assume that’s not intentional, meaning I don’t think they know that what that term means in some circles.

Replacing Taxes with Fees

My father said that after Proposition 13 passed in California the number of fees local cities charged rose sharply. We had a swimming pool. There was a fee to drain it down the gutter after 1978. Dad ran it down the shower drain instead.

The New York Times reports cities again are on a wave of charging fees to make for revenues being lost elsewhere. Get in a wreck? Next week you might get a bill from the agencies that responded. Got streetlights on your street? Cities elsewhere are adding monthly fees to pay for their maintenance. Idling your car? It could cost you.

Washington’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, has proposed a “streetlight user fee” of $4.25 a month, to be added to electric bills, that would cover the cost of operating and maintaining the city’s streetlights. New York City recently expanded its anti-idling law to include anyone parked near a school who leaves the engine running for more than a minute. Doing that will cost you $100.

“The most dangerous places on Staten Island are the schools at drop-off and dismissal time, when parents are parked three deep in the road,” says James S. Oddo, a City Council member from Staten Island who voted for the measure. “There is a mentality here that Johnny can’t walk 100 feet, he has to be dropped off right at the front of the school — and frankly that’s why Johnny is as pudgy as he is.”

This is an issue that has come up more than once during this legislative session. Tax increases require a two-thirds vote. Fee increases, such as the one to add $20 to recording fees, require no such action. But opponents argue that those fees smell like taxes to the people paying them.

Bremerton Says ‘No New Taxes or Fees’ for Now

Bremerton residents have for several months been faced with the possibility that its city council could add $20 to its fees for cars, money that would be used to make road improvements mostly. Then last week a trial balloon of sorts was floated in front of the city council, but based on what happened Wednesday night it’s clear there was no one willing to argue let that thing keep flying.

First off, the mayor, Cary Bozeman, gave a presentation to the city council saying he instructed new financial services director, Andy Park, to address a potential $3.9 million shortfall in the city’s 2009 budget. He said he had two requirements. That there be no new taxes and that it be addressed right away.

The “no new taxes” must have happened in the last week, because that was still on the table then. It’s not anymore.

On car tabs a group of four in the minority convinced one who voted to establish a transportation benefit district to help them slow down the momentum toward actually establishing a higher fee on car tabs. City Councilman Brad Gehring voted in February to establish the district, the first step in the process of raising the fee. That vote was 5-4.

The second step is lengthy, though. The council, now acting as a district board, has to establish a charter and bylaws. The council was handed a draft and had expected to perhaps approve them both tonight, as well as electing board officers. Gehring, however, sided with the four original district opponents, saying one week is not enough time to be comfortable with a charter and bylaws. Approval won’t happen at least until June now, which means if the council, er, the board, decides to approve the $20 hike in car tab fees, it will be at least three months later than originally hoped.

(Don’t) Stop Smoking – Others’ Health Depends on It

South Kitsap Reporter Chris Henry here:

I noticed a nicotine connection between two pieces of legislation, one proposed, one signed into law today.

President Barack Obama signed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization, calling it a “down-payment” on health care reform. The program, which provides health care to millions of low income children, was set to expire March 31. The new $32.8 billion package expands the program to include 4.1 million more children over four and a half years.

According to the press release we received, “Funding will come from an increase in the federal tobacco tax, which is expected to generate $31.3 billion in the next four years.”

On a related note, 160 volunteers with the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, along with cancer survivors and family members visited Olympia today to advocate for Senate Bill 5626, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $1 a pack.

Among the group was Tessie Goheen of Bremerton. “We need to find ways to cut smoking and help prevent costly incurable disease without harming every day taxpayers,” said Tessie, a 20-year old who is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “All of us are feeling the pinch of the bad economy, and this is all the more reason why we need to get creative about solving problems.”

Tessie, whose family has a rare genetic predisposition to cancer, has worked to start a cancer center in Kitsap County. She and other supporters of the bill hope to see the state avoid impending cuts to smoking prevention and cessation programs through the relatively “steady revenue stream” that would be provided by the tax.

I understand the concept of a “sin tax” is at once to discourage a detrimental behavior and to see some good come out of the inability or unwillingness of many to let it go. It’s the “stick” half of the carrot-and- combined with the lemonade out of lemons thing.

As for the effectiveness of the stick, I’m sure it’s been suggested elsewhere that, when it comes to addiction, price points don’t hold a lot of sway. I’m thinking if you want to apply the stick where it counts, let’s tax the tobacco companies for the privilege of adding chemicals to cigarettes that increase the addictiveness of their products.

I think everyone can agree that health care for children, smoking prevention and smoking cessation are noble goals. But does anyone else find it just a little ironic that the funding, as proposed in both pieces of legislation, absolutely relies on a certain percentage of the population continuing to smoke?

If you’re a smoker, how much would a pack of cigarettes have to cost to get you to quit?

How Much is That Tunnel and Other Budget Fun

Those who still read the paper and ink version of this publication were saved thousands this morning in computer repair costs. That coffee they spit out reading Josh Farley’s short take on the new Bremerton tunnel, specifically the $53 million price tag, landed on the Kitsap Sun logo, rather than on a monitor or keyboard.

The first comment, you’ll notice, is how the price tag went up by $20 million. Answer: It never was supposed to cost around $30 million. They were just saying it was. Tom Rosendale posted a comment on the blog referring to this story, which explains how a $30+ million project became a $50+ million project. Andrew Binion, when he was still gainfully employed, explained:

The annual maintenance bill comes on top of the project’s $50 million price tag, paid for with federal money, which the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Web site puts as much less.

On the site, the state gives the price tag of the project as $30.7 million, which is the price of the contract for construction of the tunnel.

What isn’t included is about $20 million more in overbudget costs, securing right-of-ways, moving utilities and preliminary designs, said Brenden Clarke, project engineer.

When asked what he would say to taxpayers who felt misled by information from the department, Clarke admitted the department did not provide the best financial information on the project.

“Could the state have been more clear about that? Certainly,” Clarke said.

You see, when you ask someone from the government what something costs, you can’t be sure the answer you get is what most people would consider the real price. There are construction costs, design costs, administrative costs, transportation costs, this year and that year costs, metric system conversion costs, Canadian currency costs, notification costs, entertainment costs, historic costs, printing costs, etc. I made a few of those up. You decide which ones. I’m not sure I know. Some think you need to exclude some costs. When the tunnel was a $30 million project, that was the construction. The other stuff was left out.

To some degree that philosophy is warranted. If the county gets a grant to build something, thanks in large part to the paid lobbyist, do you include the lobbyist in the cost of the project? No. The lobbyist is its own expense, so that new sewer plant is free to the county.

On the tunnel project, and I’m diving into unanswered questions here, some of the earlier unaccounted costs were the cost of state officials managing the project. If they had not been working on the Bremerton tunnel, they would have been working on some other project. So do you include the cost of the administration when if you weren’t spending it here you’d be spending it somewhere? For my money, I say you do. But even if I’m wrong, I want to be consistent. If I’m not going to include it on that project, I don’t want to include it on any.

The same kind of consistency should be there in budget stories. On that account, I was wrong in today’s story on the county sales tax revenues. The basics about the county were correct. I was wrong about Poulsbo. When we get to Bremerton and Bainbridge Island, I’m not sure yet.

The story was county sales tax revenues were down from expectations in 2008. In Port Orchard the revenues were in line with the budget. I wrote that Poulsbo was down $1 million based on my misinterpretation of an earlier story. In fact, Poulsbo came in pretty on line as well.

Similarly, when we talk in news stories about “filling a gap” in the budget, those who suggest we are actually talking about a slower increase than expected are many times correct. I’ll be clearer about that.

On a final point, Bob Meadows did point out that the first sign of trouble was in February of last year when holiday sales tax revenues were down from expectations. In the story I wrote that the first sign was in June. In retrospect Bob is probably more right on this one. The reason I went with June was because though I remembered the earlier announcement, it seemed that in tone June was the first “Oh (insert your favorite expletive or expletive replacement here)!” moment for the commissioners. In February Jan Angel said the county had to act as if it was going to be a trend, but there wasn’t any real action until later, when the commissioners were meeting at Island Lake. That was when they started talking about hiring freezes and across-the-board cuts and the like.

The Record’s Last Skip — County Revenues Lower than Expected

Writing that the government’s revenues were lower than expected was a staple of our work this past year. This could be the final piece related to 2008, the news that the county’s expectation that sales tax revenues would be $2.8 million below budget was too optimistic. The number is closer to $3.4 million.

As noted in the story, these kind of stories got their launch in June when the county’s budget boss first reported slow sales tax revenues. At that time it was about $1.6 million and was expected to finish down about $2 million.

Bainbridge Island, Bremerton and Poulsbo also took a hit. Port Orchard, perhaps through some conservative budgeting, managed to come in pretty close to their guesses from a year ago. I’ve been informed by Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern that Poulsbo did not have a $1 million shortfall in the 2008 budget. That city also came in pretty close to what it estimated. He said that earlier in the year the revenues were coming in higher than expected, but by the end of the year the actual revenues were pretty close to the original projected revenues.

All that fun snow during the prime shopping weeks is expected to create a real pall over budget discussions through February. Since sales tax revenues come back to counties two months later, that’s when we’ll know how the Christmas retail season went in Kitsap County.

Bremerton Car Tabs and a Possible Increase

Clearly this would be an issue that would interest folks in all jurisdictions, so I’ll place the conversation here.

As you may have read in the story Thursday, Bremerton is considering an increase to car tabs within the city. The council could approve up to $20 more on your tabs (The basic rate is $33.75) to improve the roads and sidewalks in town.

Phil Williams, the city’s public works director, estimates the city will spend $175,000 on road preservation in 2009. The car tabs would add about $600,000, but might not all go to preservation. City Councilman Nick Wofford, the man behind the proposal, has suggested 75 percent go to preservation and the rest to sidewalks and other non-motorized transportation uses.

The Legislature gave counties and cities the ability to do this in the 2007 session. Counties and cities can add $20 a year without a vote and up to $100 with one.

To date, no one is charging the extra fee, but Des Moines, Lake Forest Park and Edmonds will soon. Olympia, Burien and Prosser have joined Bremerton in considering it.

For more history on car tabs, particularly in Bremerton, you can go to the following links:

More of Steven Gardner’s Links

Eyman Says, ‘Media Sees It’

Initiative peddlar Tim Eyman pays a backhanded compliment to members of the media in an e-mail he sent to supporters:

RE: Media explains Lower Property Taxes Initiative

You can hold a red ball in your hand and ask the media what it is, and they’ll reply “I don’t see it.” So you describe it and say it’s a ball and it’s red — it’s a red ball. And they’ll reply “I still don’t see it.”

Sometimes it’s hard for the media to “get” the details and accurately report them to the public.

But that didn’t happen on Monday when we filed the Lower Property Taxes Initiative in Olympia. You’ll learn a great deal about the initiative by reading these news stories:

He didn’t quote my story, because I didn’t write one. We ran at least part of the same AP story the Seattle Times ran, which was quoted by Eyman.

Sheldon to Reintroduce Property Tax Relief Bill

Legislators are filing bills in anticipation of the 2009 session and state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch has brought back a regular. Sheldon’s bill would cap property tax increases on individual properties for owner-occupied dwellings at 1 percent per year until the property is sold or otherwise transferred.

Sheldon said he began introducing the bill when he was a member of the House and has reintroduced it each session.

Currently, governments increase their overall take on property taxes by 1 percent, but individual property owners can see their taxes go higher if their valuation goes up higher in proportion to other residents in the county. This bill would cap any single year’s tax increase to 1 percent.

Because it’s a change to the state’s constitution, there is a second bill accompanying it that would put the measure before voters.

Sheldon, who is also a Mason County commissioner, said property tax increases are “by far” the biggest source of complaints he gets. For seniors and others on fixed incomes, it’s especially challenging, he said.

“It gives the homeowner some stability,” Sheldon said. “I think people need piece of mind and to know they can live in a home that’s not going to escalate in property taxes”

Opposition in the past has come from assessors and those who believe it could bankrupt governments, he said. Sheldon said the most current real estate slump and overall economic recession is having people see their homes as places to live rather than investments.

With stabilized property tax increases, he said, it could stabilize the real estate market overall.

I may expound on this for a story in print edition. If nothing else, I’d like to speak to someone who opposes this idea.

The concept is the formula behind California’s Proposition 13. Sheldon said that measure didn’t bankrupt that state and that California’s current financial mess is the result of a combination of factors, not solely limits imposed by the law approved by voters in the late 1970s.

Government Money for Sports

Congress, specificly U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is looking at government money being used on professional sports facilities. The subcommittee looking at it is being postponed to give time to figure out why land under the new Yankee Stadium was valued at $21 million in one appraisal, but a month earlier was appraised at $204 million. There does seem to be one plausible explanation, plausible to me, anyway. From New York Newsday:

A city Department of Finance spokesman said the land values were taken from separate city appraisals. The lower figure was estimated by the city’s Parks Department in May 2006, appraising the land as if it were undeveloped real estate.

The higher estimate was by the finance department, which appraised the land in April 2006, as if the new stadium were complete, the spokesman said.

The Yankees declined to comment.

The Yankees also declined to comment on why they’re willing to move from the sacred ground once patrolled by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle. The new place being Yankee Stadium, I think not. From now on I’m calling lemons bananas.

Thank you to Jake Metcalf for the tip and this link in which you can find Kucinich saying:

I think that it’s very important to understand that we’re looking at a public policy matter here that relates not only to New York and not only to the Nets and the Atlantic Yard project, but it also relates to the whole country, as your other guests have said, because it’s quite possible that there are billions of dollars in tax benefits that should be going to municipalities for the purposes of repairing their infrastructure and for schools and other things and that are instead being diverted for these private sports complexes.