Saving Washington: The case for property tax relief

In 300 words, community leaders offer ideas to soften the economic blow caused by coronavirus.

Single family homes

Property taxes are a major source of revenue in Washington state. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Paul Guppy is the vice president for research at the Washington Policy Center.


People are rightly worried about the COVID-19 health crisis and the ongoing lockdown ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee. In this time of crisis, elected leaders can provide a measure of hope and a practical boost for all by providing a measure of property tax relief.

Lowering the tax burden would strengthen household finances, as the economy heads into a possibly prolonged downturn. Here’s why this makes sense.

1. It’s fair. Property taxes are up sharply and the higher burden imposed by state, county and local officials raises the cost of everything, especially housing. Backing off on the tax burden would directly benefit everyone and disproportionately benefit low-income families because they devote a greater share of their income to taxes.

2. Government can afford it. After years of economic growth, revenues are higher than ever. The state just passed a budget that spends over $53 billion. Property taxes go up every year, and the Legislature recently passed an 18% tax increase on services.

3. It would make us stronger. Providing tax relief will help families pay bills now and be financially stronger in the future. That would put everyone in a better position to weather the next health crisis or economic downturn.

The due date for the first half of 2020 property taxes has been delayed by just 30 days. That’s nice, but given the gnawing uncertainty over how long the crisis will last, state and local leaders should offer people a property tax deferral, a reduction in rate for the rest of the year and a suspension of penalties.

Tax relief in itself won’t end the downturn, but it would be of practical help and go a long way in showing that our public leaders understand what people are going through in the present crisis.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Paul Guppy

Paul Guppy

Paul Guppy is the Vice President for Research at Washington Policy Center.