As income inequality becomes more pronounced — as a greater percentage of our collective wealth goes to those at the highest levels — the tax system becomes even less fair.

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As property-tax bills go out, King County property owners are learning how the state’s education fix will affect them personally.

Driven by the $7.3 billion state schools package passed last year, property taxes will increase about 17 percent on average across King County. But that’s just the average. Depending on how your property value changed compared to others, or whether your community approved a new levy to pay for local needs, you could see a property tax hike between 9 percent (Normandy Park) and 31 ½ percent (Carnation) for the median home.

For many homeowners — particularly seniors and others on fixed incomes — these increases can be tough. Exemptions and deferrals are available, and the King County Assessor’s Office can help you learn if you qualify. But more must be done to make the state tax system fair and manageable for all.

Hiking property taxes in Democratic King County was the former Republican state Senate majority’s parting gift — a neat solution to addressing the Supreme Court’s order to better fund schools statewide. While next year the taxes may actually decrease in other areas of the state, higher property values in King County mean that won’t be the case for most of our region’s homeowners. But, with Democrats now in control of the state Senate, the Legislature can enact fairer and more responsible tax options.

One proposal that should pass this year is House Bill 2597 sponsored by Rep. Pat Sullivan and its companion bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 6314 sponsored by Sen. Manka Dhingra, which allows King County and other cities and counties to provide lower-income seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans an exemption from voter-approved property tax increases.

Dhingra has a second proposal that she’s championing with Rep. Kristine Reeves, Senate Bill 6251/House Bill 2608, to tie this exemption to a county’s median income, helping to nearly double the number of lower-income seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities who would be eligible for a tax break in King County.

Another even more ambitious reform that merits consideration is Rep. Kristine Lytton’s proposal to reduce the state property tax and impose a capital-gains tax. It is one of several innovative ideas to move away from overreliance on a nearly century-old system of property and sales taxes under which low-income Washingtonians pay seven times more of what they have in taxes than do the wealthiest residents.

These bills would provide real relief, and deserve bipartisan support. But we should take this moment to begin a broader discussion about taxes and governance. Washington has the most unfair tax system in the nation. It is time for a change.

We believe a fair tax system is one based on the ability to pay. It is not fair to expect those with limited means to pay a greater percentage than the wealthy for the schools, roads, police, and transit that are essential for a growing economy and strong community.

Our region does not have a prosperity problem. Far from it — more wealth is being generated than at any other time in history. Many people are doing better than ever. Yet there is a disconnect between how much you are asked to pay, and how well you are doing in this economy.

As income inequality becomes more pronounced — as a greater percentage of our collective wealth goes to those at the highest levels — the tax system becomes even less fair.

We need reform. We urge the legislature to begin with three guiding principles:

• Build a tax system that is based on ability to pay.

• Make the system simple, efficient and transparent.

• Align the system with the modern economy, instead of an outdated structure that relies so heavily on a narrowing base of property and sales tax.

Our tax system is not beyond our ability to change. Somebody made it up. We can remake it. We can come up with something that meets the needs of our 21st century economy, and meets the basic definition of fairness.