WA Senate passes (after 11 p.m.) a tax bill and may pass more soon

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Senate Democrats passed a key tax bill late Thursday night that Republicans worry will raise apartment rents.

At issue is the real estate excise tax. Currently, homeowners looking to sell homes and landlords looking to sell apartment buildings pay 1.28% of the sale to the state.

On Thursday night, as the clock neared midnight, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5998 with a vote of 26-22. The new bill would change the real estate excise tax rate as follows:

  • 1.1% for sales under $500,000
  • 1.28% for sales $500k - $1.5 million
  • 2.75% for sales $1.5 - $3 million
  • 3% for sales over $3 million

(Ag and timber land would stay at 1.28%)

If the bill passes the House and Gov. Inslee signs off, it would lower the rate for most homeowners selling homes in our area.

Democrats say the bill would bring in about $600 million over the next four years.

However, some Republicans say the increased fees would trickle down to renters. The argument brought up on the Senate floor was that most Washington apartment buildings are valued over $1.5 million and owners looking to sell -- knowing they'd face an increased fee -- would raise rents.

Senators passed the bill before showing their budget to the public or updating the fiscal analysis.

Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at Washington Policy Center, decried the lack of transparency and said taxpayers also ought to keep an eye out for a potential gas (carbon) tax hike, business-and-operation (B&O) tax increase and what Democrats call a capital gains excise tax.

"Don't go to sleep tonight if you want to know what they're doing on your taxes," Mercier said.

The 105-day-legislative session is scheduled to end Sunday.

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