Taxation issues with ST3 for land owners in unincorporated areas persist | Cornfield

  • Thursday, March 16, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

Everyone understands the problem. No one opposes the solution.

Yet today owners of 285 properties in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties still are facing a property tax assessment from Sound Transit even though many of them, if not all, didn’t get a chance to vote on the expansion plan it helps finance.

Each of those parcels — 51 in Snohomish County, 70 in King County and 164 in Pierce County — straddle the boundaries of the taxing district. Assessors in each county are following guidance in state regulations by levying a new property tax approved by voters for Sound Transit 3 on every parcel in the regional transit authority boundaries, even those partial ones.

Turns out some of the owners live on the portion outside the district so they didn’t get a say on the measure, just a share of the $54 billion tab.

When Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, learned about this unusual situation from a constituent he crafted a simple fix, House Bill 1958, to make sure the Sound Transit tax is not imposed on anything less than a whole parcel. It would be retroactive to Nov. 1 — which is before voters approved ST3 — to ensure none of those owners has to pay a dime.

No one opposed it at a House Transportation Committee hearing. Every lawmaker on the committee supported advancing the legislation.

There seemed no reason to suspect it would not get approved by the House, sent to the Senate and potentially on its way to a final vote there.

Except the bill didn’t get through the House before the March 8 deadline for action on non-budget bills. Instead of motoring toward the governor’s desk, it had, in a procedural sense, died.

Harmsworth couldn’t figure it out. He hadn’t expressed concern about its fate until the deadline neared. He said he reminded the transportation committee chairwoman about it and also pitched a member of the leadership team of the majority Democrats.

And he said on the morning of March 8, GOP leaders sent Democratic leaders a list of five Republican-sponsored bills they desired to vote on before the cut-off. One of those was HB 1958.

Still, somehow it didn’t come up and for several days no one could explain how this bill seemingly too innocuous to fail wound up atop the heap of dead bills getting boxed up and stored until next year.

Until Tuesday, when none other than House Speaker Frank Chopp D-Seattle, confessed, “That was my mistake.”

Chopp said he thought the Senate intended to pass an identical bill and he planned on moving it instead. That wasn’t the case.

A diplomatic Harmsworth appreciated getting an answer about what occurred.

“I’m glad the Speaker has realized the mistake,” he said late Tuesday. “Now let’s fix the problem for the property owners.”

However everything is not quite back on track. Because the bill didn’t get through ahead of the deadline, it must first be revived before it can be voted on. That requires two-thirds of the representatives agreeing to suspend House rules in order to bring it forward.

No problem if the one doing the asking is Mr. Speaker.

“We can pick it up again and pass it,” Chopp said confidently.

Sounds like no big deal though as of Wednesday morning it hadn’t happened.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter at @dospueblos.

More in Opinion

On the more subtle forms of discrimination | Guest editorial

By Kathy Lambert King County Council Many people are speaking out about… Continue reading

Fight for the millions of Americans living with Alzheimer’s | Letter

Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the United States.

Help reduce the risk of texting and driving | Letter

You should never, ever check your phone is while you are driving.

Sex trafficking in King County | Letter

We can do something about this.

Democracy’s cornerstone: A free press

Every time Trump proclaims something as “fake-news,” he is attacking truth and… Continue reading

Answer the call to action | Letter

How many people in the audience can say that you or someone… Continue reading

Support for sexual assault survivors | Letter to the editor

What once was a normal life changed in an instance. In the… Continue reading

Homelessness In Washington | Letter to the editor

Washington State’s homelessness rate grew last year. Nearly 22,000 homeless people were… Continue reading

Most Read