Legislature expands tax exemption program

The Washington State Legislature has recently voted to expand the state property tax exemption program, which primarily serves seniors with low incomes.

At the King County Assessor’s Office, Chief Deputy Assessor Al Dams said that going forward, people who qualify for the exemption program, including seniors, people with disabilities and veterans, will be exempt from local levies, as long as the ballot measure includes that exemption information.

On Vashon, the levies this measure may pertain to include those from the park, fire and school districts. It could also pertain to county-wide levies, such as the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy passed last fall.

King County Assessor John Wilson provided a statement about the new legislation earlier this week.

“This bill is a step forward in making our tax system fairer by reducing the burden on our lower income seniors. It did not make sense that those who were exempt from some property taxes would be forced to pay the taxes created by a special levy,” he said.

He added that he and County Executive Dow Constantine promised they would work with the Legislature to make this change happen when the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services levy passed. He also credited Rep. Patrick Sullivan and Sen. Manka Dhingra with getting the legislation passed.

Dams noted that taxing districts do not lose money through the exemption program. Rather, taxpayers who are not part of the program pay more to compensate for the revenue that otherwise would would have been lost.

The bills were part of a flurry of legislative activity in Olympia, passing 96-2 in the House on Feb. 14 and 49 to 0 in the Senate on March 1. As of Monday, the legislation was waiting for the governor’s signature.

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