King County Executive Dow Constantine is pushing to implement a property tax levy countywide, in order to create and fund a new social program. The property tax hike would increase the annual property tax rate to 14 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, “to be paid by homeowners, renters and business owners living in the county.” Not content to raise taxes in just one year, Constantine’s tax proposal also includes an escalator clause of 3 percent per year.
The property tax hike would raise $392 million over six years. Of course, though the tax is billed as a 6-year temporary increase, temporary levies have a strong tendency to become permanent.
Under the tax hike, the owner of a median-priced home in King County would pay an additional $420 in the first six years. A Seattle homeowner could expect to pay an additional $449.40, an Eastside homeowner an additional $530.88, a North King County homeowner an additional $246.60 and a South East King County homeowner an additional $267.96.
As the Washington Policy Center points out, Constantine’s tax proposal “comes at a time of rising tax burden for people living in Seattle and King County, particularly given Sound Transit’s proposal to increase regressive sales taxes.” The Washington Policy Center,
“Examples include: A $696 million, six-year property tax for EMS services; a $396 million, six-year property tax for county parks; a $45 million annual increase in regressive sales taxes and car fees in Seattle for Metro Transit; a $235 million, six-year property tax increase in Seattle for early learning programs.
“These voter-approved tax increases are in addition to increases in regular tax collections imposed by cities, the county and other taxing districts through the annual budget process. (Properties in King County can be taxed by as many as ten districts in one year.)”
So, what is the new social program that Constantine believes warrants an even heavier tax burden? Well, according to the Washington Policy Center, the program would essentially “duplicate early learning intervention programs already provided at the city, state and federal level.” Certainly, it is not a program that is a core service for counties (services like roads and public safety). Making matters worse, the new program would ultimately work to “discriminate against families that choose to keep their very young children at home” and parents who may be “uncomfortable with enrolling very young children in a county social program.”