FILE houses

Nicely trimmed and manicured garden in front of a luxury house on a sunny summer day.

(The Center Square) – Two bills that Washington state legislators are expected to take up when the new session begins in January could see every homeowner in the state get a tax break.

If passed, Senate Bill 5463 and House Bill 1579 would exempt the first $250,000 of a home’s value from state property taxes.

The idea comes from the bipartisan Tax Structure Work Group, which was created in 2017 to identify options to make the state’s tax code more equitable and transparent.

The group includes four Republican and four Democratic lawmakers, as well as representatives from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the state Department of Revenue, the Washington State Association of Counties, and the Association of Washington Cities.

Supporters say the average Washington homeowner would see their state property tax burden cut in half. For those with homes valued at $250,000 or less, they would pay no state property taxes.

Accompanying the bills is Senate Joint Resolution 8206, which would lock the exemption into the state constitution. That would mean that future legislators would not be able to undo the exemption. It would require statewide voter approval.

Two Republican members of the workgroup, Sen. Lynda Wilson and Rep. Ed Orcut — the main sponsors of the bills in their respective chambers — wrote in a recent Tacoma News Tribune op-ed that state revenues for the current budget cycle are expected to be $6 billion higher than forecast and that the exemptions would provide about $3 billion in tax cuts.

“It’s not often that legislators are faced with a substantial amount of unexpected revenue,” they wrote. “When it happens, they are bombarded by special interests arguing for more spending in a particular area. Wouldn’t it be nice if the interests of the taxpayers prevailed this time, especially as so many are trying to survive the economic effects of the ongoing pandemic?”

The workgroup is in the process of holding virtual town hall meetings via Zoom around the state to gather input from voters. The group’s website also has a survey where people can give feedback about the state’s overall tax climate and structure.

Washington currently offers a property tax exemption for senior citizens, people who have had to stop working due to a disability and disabled military veterans. Reductions are based on the person’s income, the value of their home, and local tax levies. Income determinations are based on the median household income for the county in which an applicant resides.