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Activism hits home in Sequim

Sequim's Shelley Taylor has two ingredients for an Olympia tea party - a New Year's resolution for legislators and a group of demonstrators ready to steep the idea into the lawmakers' minds during their first day in session in 2008.

"No more! This gravy train is stopping," will be her group's battle cry on the steps of the capitol building during the planned 11 a.m. property-tax protest Jan. 14.

The Property Owners for Predictable Property Tax group will dress in black, wave picket signs and shout their battle cry to lawmakers to protest property tax in general in the state.

"Many people have asked me why we still need to fight for property tax reform since (Initiative) 747 was reinstated in the (Legislature's) special session last month," Taylor said. "We have been operating under (I-747's) edict all along and, although it has given some much needed relief regarding voter approved levy increases over the past few years, it is not addressing what (homeowners) have been complaining about."

The complaint? Washington depends too heavily on property taxes, which adversely affect those least able to increase their income, such as seniors and the disabled. Increases in what governments levy from homeowners and the assessed value of each home, especially in growing areas like Sequim, create unpredictable tax expenditures for homeowners, according to Taylor.

Washington voters approved Initiative 747 in 2000 to limit annual property tax revenue increases to local taxing districts, such as a city or county, but home value assessments to property owners have continued to rise.

"There has to be a better way," Taylor said. "You don't pay taxes on a stock until you sell that stock, but with a house you are being taxed on capital gain year after year."

Taylor and Jill Willauer, co-founders of Predictable Tax Now, have created a Web site promoting their cause and identify mechanisms toward a solution, such as permanent tax cuts, phasing out property tax entirely and reforming the state's education system. Half of all property taxes fund education within the state.

"Taxpayers are spending $13 billion to educate 1 million students, which is fewer students than 30 years ago, which is from the Washington Policy Center," Taylor said, indicating reform is needed before additional dollars. "But, this event (in Olympia) is to protest property taxes in general and is not a venue to champion any particular approach to property tax reform."

The group hopes to get legislators to the negotiating table with other policy experts. Peninsula legislators have expressed interest in taking property tax reform to the discussion table in 2008. Reps. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, and Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, said they would bring the issue forward, however they have not indicated the direction they or the House might move toward a resolution.

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