State House Bill Would Stop the Bleeding In King County Budget
King County’s budget has been bleeding out for more than a decade, largely thanks to a state law capping property tax increases by local governments at one percent per year, which is less than the rate of inflation. But a new bill that got its first hearing in the state legislature this morning could change that.
Today, legislators in the state House of Representatives considered HB 1764, which would allow the state and local governments (including counties) to raise taxes annually by enough to keep up with inflation and population growth. The bill, sponsored by three Republicans and eight Democrats, would not get rid of the state-imposed cap on county tax increases. But it would tie that cap to measures of both population growth (more people mean more need for services) and inflation (each tax dollar buys less each year). The hope is that the new cap keeps taxation stable from year to year, rather than the current slow-bleed that keeps county leaders “coming up with efficiencies and cuts, year after year,” says King County Councilmember Joe McDermott.
Rep. Noel Frame (D-36), one of HB 1764’s co-sponsors, says that one of the highest priorities she’s heard from King County officials is lifting the tax cap to correspond to changes in the economy and population. “They basically said,” she says, “if we were allowed to do one percent plus population change and inflation, we would not have a deficit.”