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The Overcast: Property Tax Hike Is 'Punitive' Says One Democratic Lawmaker

"edge of belltown" by Jeff Wilcox is licensed under CC by 2.0

King County residents may experience some sticker shock when they see their property tax bills this year because of the state's plan to fund education.

Lawmakers passed a plan last summer that includes what's known as a levy swap. The move essentially limits how much cities can raise in local property taxes for schools and generally raises the state property tax.

This year, property taxes will generally go up around the state. But taxpayers in property-rich areas like Seattle can expect to continue paying more.

Democratic state Sen. Reuven Carlyle represents parts of northwestern Seattle, including Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne. He voted against the school funding plan because of the new tax burden.

Carlyle spoke with Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman about how the hike affects his district. The conversation above is an excerpt from The Overcast, the Seattle Times politics podcast recorded at KNKX.

Interview Highlights

Plan Was 'Punitive'

"Well it's a really dramatic jolt. It's about on average about $750 per person per year. And clearly property taxes need to be a piece of it. What I object to is the extreme nature of it. It was an overwhelming reliance on property taxes almost exclusively. It could have been much much less punitive, not just on Seattle and not just on King County, but throughout the whole Puget Sound region."

Did Democrats Get Rolled Last Year?

"We went down to the last 24 hours, and the Republicans unequivocally demanded that this package at this level get approved or they shut down state government. And our folks agreed that that was irresponsible and just took that move. So there's no question that we have culpability in agreeing to that, but it was a full-on hostage situation, and we decided to save some lives."

Relief May Not Come Soon

"Well first of all, the bills are out, so it's impossible to do something just tactically for 2018. In 2019, the property tax swap, the shift from some of the areas to other areas, begins to take effect. So it's very difficult to do this mid-stream. We've cast our net, and it's a challenge. We can't underestimate the impact of divided government. We have a one-vote majority in the Senate. We have a two-vote majority in the House of Representatives, so basically two to three votes separate the entire Legislature."

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.