Court Rules in Snoqualmie’s Favor, Overturns Law Set to Increase Property Taxes

Last week the City of Snoqualmie won a legal battle when a the King County Superior Court overturned a law that would’ve tacked $20-$30 onto Snoqualmie residents’ yearly property taxes.

The City of Snoqualmie had opposed the new legislation since its enactment last spring and on Wednesday, March 4, 2015, King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts ruled in favor of the city regarding ESHB 1287, a property tax statute that was set to affect property tax bills next month.

According to a City of Snoqualmie press release, the new law would’ve excused the Muckleshoot Tribe from paying property tax obligations on the Salish Lodge, instead transferring them Snoqualmie residents and businesses.

The law waived property tax obligations on all property owned exclusively by a federally recognized Indian tribe in Washingtonsalish State, including off-reservation properties like the Salish Lodge. 

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson had pressed Governor Inslee to veto the bill last year, but it was signed into law on April 3rd, going into effect on June 12, 2014.

The city explained the property tax exemption for the Salish Lodge, would’ve amounted to $109,000 and would have been transferred to Snoqualmie residents, raising property taxes by $20 – 30 per year for the average Snoqualmie homeowner.

Judge Robert’s ruling declared the law “unconstitutional, null and void in its entirety” and stopped the new tax increase. She concluded that the statute “violated the Washington Constitution’s requirements for uniformity in property taxes, and improperly delegated the taxing power from the state to the tribe to allow each tribe the ability to determine the amount it wanted to pay.”

Mayor Matt Larson was pleased that the court protected citizens from what he called an unfair tax increase.

Larson said Indian tribes are important members of the community and he appreciates the history, culture and services they contribute to the Snoqualmie Valley, but added, “It is critical that new economic development pay its fair share of property and other taxes, and not shift their taxes onto ordinary citizens and small businesses.”

According to the press release, Judge Roberts overturning of the law also heads off a proposed amendment to the law, SB 5811, that would have broadened the tribal tax break and potentially shifted even greater taxes onto residents.

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