Housing discussed at update

Tharinger, Chapman talk about legislation

Steve Tharinger.

Steve Tharinger.

PORT ANGELES — A bill that would have restricted rent increases to 7 percent annually is dead for this legislative session barring a miracle, Rep. Steve Tharinger told more than 30 people who logged into the weekly Coffee with Colleen podcast on Wednesday.

Tharinger, a Democrat from Port Townsend who voted in favor of the bill, was joined by fellow Democrat Rep. Mike Chapman of Port Angeles, who opposed it, to give a rundown of the 60-day session that adjourns in a week, on March 7. Both represent Legislative District 24, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

Chapman, one of the few Democrats who voted against the bill in the House, said a case could be made for or against the bill, adding he wanted landlords with five or fewer units exempted, but that amendment was rejected.

“People shouldn’t assume they know why the bill didn’t make it out of the Ways and Means Committee. It wasn’t the 24th District senator,” Chapman said, referring to Sen. Kevin Van De Wege of Port Angeles.

“I was criticized on my ‘no’ vote. I accept the criticism for voting against it,” Chapman said, adding that the district’s lawmakers respect each other even when they vote differently.

Earlier Chapman had said he felt the bill did not protect small business landlords in his district and was geared more toward large corporate landlords on the Interstate 5 corridor.

Tharinger said he didn’t think the Affordable Homes Act would pass, and Chapman said if it passes the House, he doesn’t see a path for the bill in the Senate.

“That would be a multi-hour debate that would blow out important policy bills,” Chapman said.

The Affordable Homes Act, HB 2276, would create a permanent and dedicated funding source for affordable housing by imposing a new real estate excise tax (REET) of an extra 1 percent on property sales over $3.025 million and direct the revenue to the Washington Housing Trust Fund and other affordability programs. It also would lower the REET from 1.28 percent to 1.1 percent on sales from $525,000 to $750,000.

Legislators are hoping to get the number of initiatives going to the voters down to two or three, Chapman said, adding three probably should go to the voters.

The six initiatives to the Legislature would:

• Repeal the state’s new capital gains tax.

• Repeal the carbon cap-and-trade program, formerly known as the Climate Commitment Law.

• Make it easier for workers to opt out of the state’s new long-term care insurance program.

• Remove most restrictions on police vehicle pursuits.

• Make it harder for state and local governments to impose an income tax.

• Create a “bill of rights” for parents of public school students.

Tharinger said legislators are trying to create a separate account for the money raised by the climate commitment law if the initiative to repeal it passes.

“The initiatives are complicating a lot of the policy,” he said.

Chapman said, “We’re getting down to the core bills. These are supplemental budgets so there’s not a lot of new spending.”

Chapman said the big differences between the supplemental transportation budgets passed by the House and the Senate is the Senate is using projected funding from the Climate Commitment Act, but the House is hesitant to do that.

The Senate also wants to put a lid over the state Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington in Seattle’s Portage Bay neighborhood, but he doesn’t know that the House wants to do that, Chapman said.

“It’s not a winning issue for me, telling people their tax dollars are going to pay for a traffic lid for rich taxpayers,” Chapman said.

He co-sponsored four bills for ferries, but the process is not as quick and robust as people want, Chapman said. One problem is the state wants to put the responsibility for cost overruns on the ferry builders.


Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsuladailynews.com.