Van De Wege talks tugboats and taxes

PORT ANGELES – Property tax reform, a year-round rescue tugboat at Neah Bay and the state’s pick-a-party primary dominated Rep. Kevin Van De Wege’s latest post-session wrap-up.

Van De Wege, D-Sequim, addressed about 35 people at the Port Angeles Business Association during its Tuesday morning meeting at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge in Port Angeles.

Property tax reform is a big issue, Van De Wege said, but changing the senior property tax exemption is not popular because it is a tax shift.

Property tax shifts aren’t popular in the Legislature because they don’t reduce taxes, Van De Wege said.

They just transfer them to another group.

Van De Wege represents the 24th District, which covers Clallam, Jefferson and a portion of Gray’s Harbor counties.

Expanding the senior property tax exemption is not popular also because the state has a deferral system that allows property taxes to be taken out of the home’s sale price when the owner sells the home or dies, he said.

Homeowners at least 61 years old or those retired due to physical disability, who make less than $35,000 a year, can apply for exemption from special levies and a partial exemption from regular levies as well as a freeze on their homes’ taxable value.

Other such tax shifts include the “predictable property tax” proposal submitted by Sequim resident Shelley Taylor and increasing the homestead exemption, he said.

Van De Wege said he was unsuccessful in getting a bill passed to reimplement Initiative 747, so if it is overturned in court, he will be the leading voice for a special session to reinstate it.

Initiative 747, approved by the voters in November 2001, allows property tax collections to increase only by 1 percent a year, plus new construction.

In June 2006, King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts declared the measure unconstitutional because it didn’t state in full the law it was amending.

The state is appealing Roberts’ decision.

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