SAN FRANCISCO — Washington lawmakers will meet in a one-day special session Thursday, where they are expected to reinstate a property tax cap that was invalidated by a state court ruling. Gov. Christine Gregoire proclaimed the special session last week and said her administration is drafting a bill to reinstate the terms of Initiative 747.The initiative, approved by Washington voters in 2001, limited the growth of property tax revenue that governments could collect from their existing tax base to 1% annually. Revenue from property added to the tax rolls during a given year was excluded from the formula.“The citizens of our state expect that we will expeditiously deal with this subject, and this subject only, to give them certainty about their property tax bills for the upcoming year,” Gregoire said in a letter to legislative leaders.The Washington Supreme Court overturned the ballot measure earlier this month with a 5-to-4 vote. The majority opinion was not based on tax or finance issues. Rather, it said that I-747 had effectively deceived voters because it amended an earlier law that had been overturned in court, though that law was still valid at the time I-747 supporters were gathering signatures to place it on the ballot.The fiscal impact of the tax cap falls on local governments and districts that rely on property taxes for their revenue.Democrats control both houses of the Washington Legislature, and many majority lawmakers have lined up behind Gregoire, a fellow Democrat, to support reinstatement of the tax cap. They don’t want to hand a potential wedge issue to Republicans next year, when Gregoire is likely to face a rematch of her razor-thin 2004 victory over Republican Dino Rossi.“As a former mayor and City Council member, I am sensitive to the arguments about local needs,” said a statement issued by Rep. Deb Eddy, D-Kirkland, supporting Gregoire’s plan to reinstate the 1% cap. “But voters overwhelmingly approved this cap in 2001, and we’ve observed it for the past six years. Now is not the time leave open the potential for significant property tax increases.”Republicans were left to complain about how long it took to call the special session.“Since the Supreme Court has ruled, it has taken the governor 11 days to recognize that a special session is necessary to uphold the will of the people and provide protections for taxpayers,” said a statement from Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the ranking Republican on the House Finance Committee.
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