Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, is doubtful about the prospects
HB 1786, which he reintroduced during the state Legislature’s
second special session toward the end of 2011.
The bill, if approved, would allow for “additional property tax
levy flexibility in order to preserve and enhance the veterans and
human services safety net.” Specifically it would allow counties
like Kitsap to detach property tax collection for its Veterans
Assistance Fund, used for indigent vets, from its general fund
property tax collection. The net effect would be a tax
Seaquist and other sponsors of the bill say the nominal tax
increase would help counties provide for the needs of vets, which
have been increasing, according to local veterans advocates. As the
law now stands, the board could increase the collection rate
(currently at 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value) without
a vote of the people, but the increased collection amount for the
benefit of veterans would have to be subtracted from the general
fund collection amount. Separating the two funds would remove the
effect of any change to the veteran’s fund rate on the general
The bill is unchanged from its
earlier form, which never made it out of committee earlier in
Seaquist doesn’t hold out much hope of the bill passing this
time either. “To be candid,” he said, “I do not think the bill is
likely to be moving in its present form at all.”
A special veterans and human services property tax levy
(unrelated to HB 1786) was shot down by Kitsap County voters in
Seaquist, who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, says
the Legislature needs to work on strategies that will have the
greatest impact on the state’s economy. If, repeat, if
going to voters to request a tax increase were among the
strategies, Seaquist said, the proposed tax increase had better
have demonstrable returns. One idea Seaquist thinks may have merit
is a tax increase that would go directly toward higher education.
He estimates 60,000 technology jobs in the state are going unfilled
for lack of qualified workers.
“I believe if we can put the money in exactly the right place,
we could make a major contribution to employment because we’re
accelerating our ability to produce high tech graduates,” Seaquist
Anything the state asks of voters must be simple, coherent and
sensible, with clear widespread benefits, Seaquist said. If more
people could obtain living-wage jobs, the increased quality of life
in our state would in theory raise everyone’s boat.
Before the state goes to voters, however, it must show that it
has “squeezed spending” as much as possible, and that there is
innovation at the local level, Seaquist said.
In the meantime, Seaquist approves of the
idea for creating a veteran’s court in Kitsap County. Funded by
a yet-to-be-discussed (let alone approved) increase in the county’s
sales tax, the special court would, like drug court, get at the
cause of criminal behavior resulting from mental health and
substance abuse among veterans.
Seaquist said veterans’ advocates at the state level are looking
at various solutions to veterans’ needs, including homelessness.
There has been some talk of converting a wing of Western State
Hospital to housing for homeless vets, still in preliminary