News

Eyman property tax initiatives face a Friday deadline for signatures

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Two initiatives to lower property taxes sponsored by Mukilteo initiative promoter Tim Eyman are inching toward qualifying for the November ballot and causing concern in cities and counties across the state.

I-864 would lower property taxes allowed to the cities, counties and local taxing districts by 25 percent. The initiative would exempt voter-approved levies, schools, emergency and lid-lift levies.

The second Eyman initiative, I-892, collects fees from electronic scratch ticket machines in non-tribal gambling establishments and uses the cash to lower property taxes.

Each initiative must collect nearly 200,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot and rumors are swirling whether the initiative group can make the Friday deadline.

"We're making good progress," Eyman said. "We're keeping our heads down and working hard. Last year we missed one (I-807) and didn't get the signatures. But every tax initiative we've ever qualified has passed."

The initiative causing the most consternation in local communities is I-864. If the initiative passes it is estimated to take about $400,000 out of the Bonney Lake budget.

"I don't think people look at these things and realize what happens," Mayor Bob Young said. "I've proposed to lower property taxes for two years and was turned down by the City Council. But I didn't ask for 25 percent. Such a draconian measure is going to hurt a lot of people. I'm not for raising taxes, but I'd rather see incremental tax relief over a few years."

Eyman admits the measure will put pressure on cities to balance their budgets.

"They're concerned with the strain this will put on their budget in cities like Bonney Lake," Eyman said. "But look at the strain on the family budget from property taxes. Local governments will adapt just like the state government did last year balancing their budget. They prioritized and did not raise taxes. If state government can do it, so can local governments. Before the election they always say they can't make it work, and after the election they always find a way."

Bonney Lake officials generally agree the city is in better shape to counter the reductions in revenue I-864 would bring.

"Bonney Lake is unique because we are growing so much," Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said. "Many cities aren't as fortunate as we are. I think property taxes in the state are a definite problem. The state needs to do something. There is something fundamentally wrong with people literally being taxed off their property. If the initiative passes we'll deal with it at the city level."

A separate concern in Bonney Lake is the effect that either initiative would have on the $5 million parks bond and $5 million community/recreation center bond the city is placing on the November ballot.

"If the Eyman initiative qualifies and passes hopefully people will be thinking progressively," Councilman Neil Johnson. "If the parks bond and the community center bond passes and the Eyman initiative passes it will about equal out. I hope that people will be thinking toward the future and planning for the future. Why take a step back when we are trying to get to the future?"

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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