House Democrats may have found a solution

After years of futility in targeting the wealthy, House Democrats may have divined an approach to achieve some of the political and financial dividends they’ve been seeking.

After years of futility in targeting the wealthy, House Democrats may have divined an approach to achieve some of the political and financial dividends they’ve been seeking.

The concept is simple: buyers of expensive properties would pay a tad more tax on the purchase and buyers of cheaper properties a tad less.

To do that, House Democrats want to rejigger the real estate excise tax, a vital stream of money for cities, counties and the state and one that is growing in this period of booming sales of homes and commercial properties.

What they propose is replacing the current flat rate of 1.28 percent imposed on each sale of property with a four-tier graduated rate that starts with a lower rate of 0.75 percent on any sale of property valued at less than $250,000.

The other tiers would be:

• 1.28 percent on properties valued between $250,000 and $999,999;

• 2.0 percent on properties valued between $1 million and $5 million;

• 2.5 percent on properties valued above $5 million.

Democrats predict this change will generate an additional $419.7 million in the next two-year budget for public schools, early learning, health care and social service programs for lower-income families.

And they contend this will be accomplished with 97 percent of sales occurring at the existing or lower excise tax rate.

In other words, they argue a lot of people will pay a little less, a few will pay more and state coffers will be enriched in the process. For Democrats, who’ve been clamoring for years for a more progressive tax system, this change seems to meet the test.

Here’s how it appears to pencil out for a buyer of a $200,000 home. Today, the current tax rate results in $2,560 in real estate excise taxes. That sum would drop to $1,500, for a savings of $1,060, under the Democrats’ proposal.

For buyers of an $8 million home — like one sold in Woodway last year — their tally of excise tax would climb from $102,400 to $160,000.

This proposed revision is currently embedded in a package of tax changes pushed by Democrats that GOP leaders have summarily rejected. But it can be yanked out and considered separately.

Conservative Republican Rep. Matt Manweller of Ellensburg may have signalled his interest in such a conversation when he described the proposal as “one little piece of ripe fruit on a rotten tree.” Around here that’s darn near a compliment.

It’s worth recalling two years ago Senate Republicans delivered a policy touche with their call for reducing tuition for university students. House Democrats resisted until the GOP agreed to extend the savings to community college students.

This time Democrats may have landed on an idea middle-class families on both sides of the Cascades can embrace. Republicans are dismissive now but their mood could change.

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

More in Opinion

More information needed on proposed recycling site

We want to bring awareness to your readers about a 34 acre wood recycling center that is in the permitting process with King County.

North neighbors keep a close eye on the U.S.

How much do you know about Canada? If you’re like most Americans, not much.

Trickle-down equation may not add up, Dems say

A tax overhaul plan drawn up by Republicans in Congress will be a good deal for many households, though not every one, or nearly every one, as promised by its authors.

America’s monster

I’m not sure when it happened, but I recently realized I’ve stopped asking myself, “What are we going to do about mass shootings and gun violence in this country?” Instead, I now ask, “When is the carnage going to come to Enumclaw?”

Avoiding loss means more than gaining something else

Some studies have shown that losses are twice as psychologically powerful as gains. American history and our current political situation help reveal a great deal about the American/human psyche.

Congratulations, Jan Molinaro

In every election, one person must win and the other will lose. Now more than ever, it is important to show our children how to be gracious in victory and humble in defeat.

Don’t give into the pressure of driving drowsy

Eleven years ago, a drowsy-driving car wreck left me with injuries that still challenge me today.

Baxley and Young should have showed up at public forum

On Tuesday, October 17th, was the Black Diamond Maple Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum, where the Black Diamond candidates for Mayor and two City Council positions had the opportunity to talk with the citizens of Black Diamond, and to answer questions put to them by these citizens.

Issues to be addressed in Enumclaw elections

Who should I vote for in the Enumclaw City Council and mayoral races?

Enumclaw helped raise $3,500 for Special Olympics

The last couple of weekends the St. Barbara Knights of Columbus have been involved with our annual Tootsie Roll Program.

Court grapples with school funding

When the legal battle on education funding returned to the state Supreme Court Tuesday, the leader of Washington’s public school system was closely monitoring this installment of the McCleary drama from his office down the street.

Baxley is an important choice for Black Diamond mayor

Judy Baxley has been part of our local civics for years, and thank goodness because citizen involvement is critical to monitoring big developers.