Editorial | Two taxing dilemmas

As Islanders approach the April 15 deadline for filing their federal income taxes, the Washington state Legislature has begun a special session to accomplish a similar unpleasant task: balance the state’s budget. Lawmakers must find more money to address the state’s looming deficit and its citizens’ growing needs. Elected officials must agree on a mix of cost-cutting and revenue-making ideas. At the same time, they must judge what the effect of their actions will have on state needs such as health care and education. They must consider how to encourage and nurture an economic recovery. They must also remember the needy, the unemployed and keep the state and its services functioning.

The differences between what the House and Senate are each proposing are vast — hundreds of millions of dollars in both programs and funding sources. The Senate proposes increasing tax revenue, while the House looks toward increasing spending on programs such as education reform and rejects additional cuts without proposing new taxes. It will be a miracle if they can find middle ground in a week’s time. Why so fast? It costs nearly $20,000 a day to go into overtime. As this paper goes to press, state legislators need to find some consensus in a hurry. We favor spending cuts over more taxes, but both are obviously needed. We just bet there are more savings to be found at the government offices in Olympia.

A somewhat different but just as complex situation exists for Island property owners as they face their 2010 property tax bills.

Many Islanders are outraged and confused by their property tax assessments. There is much to be upset about. Some property values are tilted more toward the land rather than the structures on it. Sounds about right when looking at the many Island homes built in 1960 and earlier. Yet, the mix of Island homes has changed significantly over time. Homes have been remodeled or rebuilt many times over. Waterfront property is particularly hard hit. The tax assessor’s value of many homes does not seem to reflect the current market for Island real estate. The bottom line is that the taxes which many Islanders now owe are prohibitive, and not all Islanders are wealthy. Some longtime Islanders are considering selling their homes, where they have lived for many years and where they had intended to stay. We say the county needs to take another look at how Island properties are valued.

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