The Legislature will meet in special session on Nov. 29 to reinstate a 1 percent property-tax limit recently struck down as unconstitutional...
OLYMPIA — The Legislature will meet in special session on Nov. 29 to reinstate a 1 percent property-tax limit recently struck down as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
Gov. Christine Gregoire called the special session Monday after talking to House and Senate leaders. State lawmakers are supposed to be in town already for committee meetings.
Special sessions can be called by the governor, or by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. This is the first time Gregoire has called the Legislature back during her term. Former Gov. Gary Locke had 10 special sessions during his eight years in office.
“The citizens of our state expect that we will expeditiously deal with this subject, and this subject only, to give them certainty about their property-tax bills for the coming year,” Gregoire said in a letter sent to legislative leaders.
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Gregoire said she expects that issue can be dealt with in a one-day session. She plans to put forward two bills, one to reinstate the 1 percent limit and another to provide property-tax deferral “for all families under our state’s median income level.”
House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said he expects the House would pass a bill to reinstate a 1 percent limit. Democrats hold large majorities in both the House and Senate.
“We polled our House members to see where they were. And they felt comfortable coming back and reinstating the … 1 percent limit,” Chopp said.
Voters in 2001 overwhelmingly approved Initiative 747, a Tim Eyman-sponsored measure that limited increases in property-tax collections to 1 percent a year. The state estimates the cap has saved taxpayers more than $1.6 billion since it was put in place.
But earlier this month, the state Supreme Court overturned I-747. In its 5-4 decision, the court said the tax cap is invalid because people were not fully informed about what they were voting on.
Without the cap, local governments could begin increasing their annual property-tax collections by as much as 6 percent — the law before I-747.
The ruling sparked an immediate uproar among Eyman, Republican lawmakers and Dino Rossi, the GOP candidate for governor. They called on Gregoire and the Democrat-controlled Legislature to convene a special session to immediately reinstate the 1 percent cap.
Rossi criticized Gregoire for a “slow reaction” to the ruling.
“I’m glad she has called the special session because we need to protect the will of the voters,” Rossi said in a statement. “But I have a feeling she only took this step out of political expediency, not concern for the taxpayers.”
While Gregoire and many Democrats support reinstating I-747, they said in their initial responses to the ruling that they could do it when the Legislature convenes in January.
Gregoire, meanwhile, urged local governments to continue heeding the 1 percent cap. Despite that request, elected officials from several local governments have talked in the past week about possibly raising taxes above the 1 percent cap.
In her letter, Gregoire said “most local governments are adhering to my request … however, we have no assurances that all local governments will stay within the 1 percent lid.”
Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or email@example.com