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Rep. Hunter proposes big property tax overhaul
Posted by Andrew Garber
House Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, wants to revamp the state's property tax system as a way to redistribute funding for public schools and eventually provide more money.
Under the proposal, the Legislature would increase the state property tax, raising an additional $1 billion. That money then would be used to reduce local school district levies.
Hunter says it would be revenue neutral and, because of the way the funding would be distributed, "means more money goes to schools with a lot of poor kids, more money goes to school districts with a lot of ESL (English as second language) kids."
The proposal, in some cases, also would result in lower overall property taxes in rural parts of the state and higher property taxes in more urban areas, such as Seattle. There are also provisions that deal with local school levies.
Hunter has not introduced a bill yet and says he wants it to be a bi-partisan measure before he does. That could be a long wait.
Republicans seemed wary of the idea during a work session on Wednesday. Rep. Gary Alexander, the ranking Republican on the committee, said "I'm very concerned about this proposal and its impact on the taxpayers."
Hunter noted that changing the state property tax law would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate - something that's proven to be nearly impossible.
He called it a "big idea." It also happens to be very complex.
"It's not often we're confronted with not one, but two, 15-page spread sheets that have 23 columns," Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, commented at the work session, referring to background material handed out by Hunter.
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