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Business initiative has wide support

Those tired of partisan bickering and special interest spin this time of year can take heart in a proposed amendment to the state Constitution on the Nov. 7 ballot.

It's so widely supported, no one bothered to write a "con" statement to it for the official voters pamphlet.

"It's one of the least controversial things people will see on their ballot this year. It passed unanimously from the Legislature," said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

Kilmer sponsored House Joint Resolution 4223, which, if approved by voters, would increase the amount of business equipment that is exempt from property tax.

If business owners qualify as "head of household," which requires them to be the sole proprietors of their operations, they can get a $3,000 exemption from the tax. The amendment would increase that exemption to $15,000.

"It hasn't been changed since the early '80s, and personal property values have gone up. This is a tax that you have to pay on the chairs and the desks and a lot of the things you don't pay on in your house. It was just very confusing and hard to enforce," said Carolyn Logue of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

She approached Kilmer with the idea of increasing the exemption and has been joined by the Association of Washington Business in endorsing the amendment.

"The $15,000 (exemption) will allow assessors not to have to worry about the table and chairs and the desks and focus on the actual equipment," Logue said.

Despite quintupling the exemption, the measure is not expected to cost much for the local governments that collect the tax.

"There's a lot of them, but it should cut down on a lot of administration every year," Thurston County Assessor Patricia Costello said.

She said the exemption now requires the county to send each business applying for the exemption a copy of its taxable equipment list from the previous year, and ask the business owner to update and sign the application.

The process can be time consuming both for county employees sorting the information and for many small operations, Costello said. She favors increasing the exemption.

"I just don't think it's going far enough. This is only raising the exempt for 'head of household' businesses," Costello said.

"There's a small business out there that is incorporated, or it's a partnership - they don't have the same exemption. I think it should be the same across the board, and I think instead of $15,000, it should be $50,000."

The amendment even provides an area where Costello and her opponent in the election agree.

"I think it's a great idea," said Tom Crowson, the Republican challenging Costello. "Where you cut taxes you increase tax revenues. It's almost universally true."

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