Brown bill would balance tax laws for city and county governments

Senator Sharon BrownThe Senate Governmental Operations Committee heard testimony Monday on a bill that would allow local taxing districts to recover lost revenue without exceeding their levy limit. Eighth District Sen. Sharon Brown sponsored Senate Bill 5705 on behalf of the Washington Association of County Officials.

“Taxing districts, such as city and county governments, depend on expected revenue to fund the things we all depend on, like police and fire services, libraries and schools,” Brown said. “If the funds collected are lower than expected due to reimbursements or abatements in the previous year, they often can’t generate the needed revenue without going past their levy limit. This bill would fix state law so that would not be the case.”

SB 5705 would essentially treat abated taxes the same as refunded taxes so that funds received by a property taxing authority – raised for the purposes of filling the budget gap left by refunds or reimbursement for abated taxes – would not reduce the taxing district’s levy authority. Brown says while the technical aspects of the bill are fairly complicated, it’s really about aligning the law between tax refunds and tax abatements.

“There’s no fiscal downside for the state,” said Brown, R-Kennewick, “and local governments would be able to continue the same vital services without worrying about revenue should they find a number of abatements or refunds eating into their expected budget.”

If approved by the governmental operations committee Brown’s bill would likely be referred to the Senate Rules Committee before being debated by the full Senate.