Republicans blast Democratic bill that would allow tripling of property tax rates

(The Center Square) – Republicans in the Washington Senate are calling a property tax measure backed by Democrats “the single most destructive and far-reaching bill of the 2024 session.”

At least that’s how Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley, and a member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, described Senate Bill 5770 in a Wednesday new release.

SB 570 would allow local governments across the state to increase property taxes by up to 3% a year without voter approval. The law currently allows only non-voter approved property tax increases of 1% a year.

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus held a press conference Thursday morning at the state Capitol, with more than 50 concerned community members filling the room.

Christina Janis is a realtor in Thurston County who said property tax prices are already too high.


She noted the contradiction between rhetoric and government policy.

“If you really want affordable housing, stop laying the bureaucracy on top of bureaucracy and telling us that’s it’s our fault we don’t have affordable housing,” Janis said.

Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, was critical of the bill’s timing.

“We all know now is not the time to be raising people’s taxes,” she said. “Many people are still struggling because of the pandemic and trying to pay off credit cards, since they had to put everything on credit.”

A tripling of the property tax rate could make a bad situation even worse for many people.

“Those that are struggling to make ends meet now; the burden will tip the scales so that many of them won’t be able to afford a home down the line,” Wilson said.

SB 5770 could exacerbate Washington’s already challenging housing situation.

“Washington is already fifth worst in the country in housing affordability, when you compare median income to a mortgage,” Wilson explained. “We already have a severe housing crisis, and this is only going to make it worse.”


During a media briefing last week, The Center Square asked Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, about the legislation and the impact it could have on the housing crisis.

“Everybody would like to see predictability in their budget, and I think that is true for any household and also true for local governments,” Billig answered.

He then pivoted to a lack of police officers in Washington to make his case for SB 5770.

“We hear a lot from the minority party that we’re 50th in the nation when it comes to law enforcement officers,” he said. “Well that’s a direct consequence of the current law that ratchets down government resources every single year, that’s what we’re looking at trying to address.”

In 2022, Washington recorded the lowest number of police officers per capita in the nation at 1.36 officers per 1,000 people, per the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs. The national average is 2.31 officers per capita.


SB 5770 is sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, and co-sponsored by 18 Democrats.

The measure is being debated in the full Senate ahead of a final vote.

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