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Home » Archives » April 2006 » LETTERS AGAINST THE EXCISE TAX

[Previous entry: "Honored to be a part of "Every Fifteen Minutes""] [Next entry: "LETTERS ABOUT THE GUEST HOUSE ISSUE"]


In May, we will vote to authorize a 0.5% sales tax (99% to be paid by the buyer) on every real estate sale to provide funds for a San Juan County Affordable Housing Program.

The ballot language follows: "The excise tax will be collected for ten years in the amount of one-half of one percent of the selling price on the sale of real property. Ninety-nine percent will be paid by the buyer and one percent by the seller. Revenue will be used exclusively for competitive grants and loans to eligible entities for the development of affordable housing for very low, low and moderate income persons and those with special needs."


New Two News Letters to Editor

Dear Editor:

To your readers: Do not read this if you are FOR, or AGAINST, Affordable Housing

Confused? You should be.

Each side of the argument has some agenda, open or hidden, whether they admit it or not(most likely most will not admit it).

Each side is passionate, to a point of blindness.

Have I upset both groups yet? More to follow.

No matter what I say, or whom chooses to listen, another group or individual will find a typo in my thinking and most certainly my humble thoughts will NOT change anyone's mind at this point.

I say Vote YES FOR Affordable Housing, BUT PLEASE Vote NO, the way it is being currently presented to target home or property buyers ONLY, with some smidgen paid by property sellers.

If you are neither buying, nor selling a piece of property, you do not contribute, except to ONLY the debate.

If, for example, 450 properties are sold in San Juan County, then ONLY 450 purchases are funding affordable housing. Does that seem fair or make any sense? What happens to the others in the county that neither buy, nor sell their dirt or dirt with a home on it this year? What if no one bought, nor sold property for a year, even unlikely as that is, what benefit then occurs to accumulate funds for a worthy cause?

This tax is targeted toward only a few to bear the burden and that should be opposed on theory alone.

If we truly wish to participate as a community or county, with everyone adding their real two cents, not with words, but with real Lincoln pennies, then why don't we all, 100% of us, contribute, not just zing the cost at a small percentage of buyers?

Call me crazy, but isn't it better to ask for a little from everyone, than a lot from a few?

"Welcome all property buyers to San Juan County...Pay Here (First) before you are allowed to live here."

I think a .01 percent added to sales tax collected (not 1%, rather one-tenth of one percent) could accumulate more funds, painlessly for everyone. Even visitors to the island, upon purchasing goods and services would be contributing slightly to this worthy cause, and the difference on a $10.00 purchase is one penny collected per $10.00 of taxable goods sold.

If our sales tax is 7.9%, make it an even 8.0%. The tax is not on food at the grocery, but yes, on sneakers or other items, that is, if we actually stay and buy on island instead of visiting the big box stores on the mainland.

Consider how a constant drop of water can fill a bucket versus turning on the faucet in one big splash. Or in my analogy, if the sales tax can be ever so slightly adjusted (and kept that way), it would probably gather more funds, and be painless for the majority, not just spear chucked at a minority. One tenth of one percent added to all purchases from residents and visitors would be more funds raised, by far more participants than by targeting the one group that has been selected (AKA property buyers) to fund this cause.

I support Affordable Housing, but I just CANNOT support the method that is currently being presented to the voters.

There is a BETTER solution that can be fair and equitable to those that can contribute, and those that receive the benefit.

Please VOTE NO on the one method being presented, but VOTE YES to find a better affordable housing solution.

There is a better way than the one being presented.

The sky really will not fall if you vote no for this one May 16 th vote.

In fact, the sky is the limit if a more fair and equitable method is created for EVERYONE TO PARTICIPATE.

Vote Yes for the Affordable Housing concept in your heart, but please VOTE NO for this one highly targeted and unfair proposal Tuesday.

Jim Carroll
San Juan Island
Vote NO!

Tomorrow, May 16 is Election Day for the ballot measure that proposes to increase the excise tax that would be paid on the purchase of property in San Juan County. If you have not yet voted in this important vote-by-mail election, please look under that pile of old mail on your table, find your ballot, and send in your vote.

If you are still undecided on how you should vote, ask yourself whether it makes sense to increase the taxes paid on the purchase of property to make housing more affordable.

Two organizations that are directly involved in the housing issues in San Juan County, the builders who build the homes and the realtors who sell the homes and the land they are built on, have come out against the proposed new tax. They are well aware of the impact that this tax will have on prices that future land and homebuyers will have to pay if this tax passes.

The proponents of increasing taxes to pay for "affordable" housing have been attacking the voracity of the individuals and groups opposed to the tax, implying that their opinions are motivated by self-interest. The opposite is true.

If prices move ever higher, realtors will likely earn high commissions. The money they earn is indexed to the prices that are paid. If anything, their self-interest is best served if the new tax passes. To their credit, most realtors tend to see this tax as a poor substitute for other actions that could be taken to make a broader base of housing available for everyone.

Builders are another group that generally has not supported this new tax. They recognize that their clients will be paying ever-higher prices, but that is not the principle issue. Builders and crewmembers that support families by working in the construction industry are directly affected by the rising cost of housing. Like other wage earners, they recognize that the proposed tax and the rules that the government must follow are unlikely to be of much help to workers like them. Those with good jobs in the trades or service industry earn too much to qualify for the government subsidized housing that may be made available from the increased tax. They do not see a tax increase as a logical way to deal with the affordability issue.

In a spirit of fairness to the proponents of the new tax, several things should be said. The proponents of the new tax have studied the issue and reached a conclusion. Many feel they simply reached the wrong conclusion. They have worked very hard to set the wheels in motion to get their new tax solution on the ballot. The problem for those who oppose the new tax is that they see the shortcomings in the basic conclusion that the proponents reached.

The proponent's solution will raise the cost of housing for everyone who does not qualify for or does not wish to live in one of the government subsidized housing units that new tax may build. A tax funded organization with several million dollars available a year to support non-profits competing for the limited available land for homes in San Juan County, will increase the land costs at an accelerated rate. Those hurt the most will be the first time homebuyers and local home and land purchasers. The best estimates are that half the home and land sales in the county are to other county residents. Those who buy land or a home are being required to pay a tax to provide housing for someone else.

Raising taxes is not the answer.


John Evans
Doe Bay


Gordy responds to Rollie Sauer's response to Gordy's Column

Rollie, I did not call you dishonest. I called the debate dishonest and divisive because it is! Get a grip.
The current Real Estate Excise Tax is 1%. Adding another .5% is a 50% increase.
Look at the actual census data. The population has not doubled in the last 15 years. Get real. 25-44 year olds are not the only people that work! This is just insulting to the rest of us old folks who work for a living.
I made a mistake on this point. Everyone that actually pays taxes will pay for your housing program. I forgot that not everyone actually pays taxes. Some people pull the wagon, others get to sit on it and ride.
You got me on the last one. I should not have said cheap houses or free houses. They are not free or cheap. They cost the taxpayers a lot of money. The owners pay for them also but without the true benefits of ownership, equity, and incentives for land stewardship. If these homes are permanently affordable and they do not behave like other properties out on the free market in that they don't appreciate, what is the difference between renting and living in one of these homes?
And one last point I forgot to include in the ( "A Dishonest and Divisive Debate") article, we are a giving community. We contribute to every cause imaginable and do so with great generosity. This tax proposal is very different from islanders who are willing to share when asked to do so. Taking something with police power including the threat of fines and imprisonment for failure to pay this tax has nothing to do with sharing. It is more like being mugged.

I vote no. Sorry.

Gordy Petersen
San Juan Island


Housing Bank Tax Will Tax Those Who Live Here Too

I would encourage anyone that believes that our County Government is not capable of spending our tax dollars wisely to vote NO on the Housing Bank Tax. It has become blatantly obvious, to even the most casual observer, that our county leadership is not capable of making good decisions regarding how our tax dollars should be spent. On top of that, we are being asked to approve another layer of bureaucracy and a new tax without being shown a plan on how this money is going to be spent. Simply saying, "It is for affordable housing, trust us", is not good enough.

To say that only the new residents to our community will pay is a false statement. If you currently live here and purchase property or trade up to a another home you will pay this tax too. To create a special class system where someone in our county government gets to decide who gets and affordable home and who does not is simply not right.

Our country runs on a capitalist system. To try and mix socialism or any other form into our system is a formula for failure. Every time the government attempts to get involved in the marketplace or set pricing they have failed miserably. We need to quit passing and adopting regulations that are causing most of our housing problems. Every time we remove a piece of buildable property from the equation the price of that which remains will go up. Every time we pass a regulation that restricts what can be done on a piece of property, the price of that which remains will go up. Every time we have a tax increase, living here becomes less affordable. We have been doing all of this for years and now we wonder what the problem is?

If we want to create affordable housing all we need to do is allow development like that at the Oaks and the problem is solved. We already have organizations that help people get into affordable homes. We don't need another tax and another layer of government incompetence. If we really want to do something creative, use some of our tax dollars that are in the Land Bank to help solve this problem. It will require some creative thinking by our leadership and a vote of the people, but it could be done.

Ray Bigler
San Juan Island.


Answer to Nancy DeVaux letter in support of the proposed REET

Nancy's argument against the ads and mailer sent out by Citizens for Responsible Government seems to be focused on the fact that there are people who are willing to oppose the new REET taxnot with the information that the mailer and ads from CRG contain.

In fact, it is likely that the Land Trusts that have been so successful in providing housing may well need to change how they operate in order to make use of the new money if the REET passes. As an example, it may not be possible to limit the housing to people who already are established residents of San Juan County.

It may be impossible for this REET proposal to deliver on the promise that this housing is for essential workers such as teachers. The standard for government housing is income, not the job someone does.

It is a fact that there is no plan in existence for where the housing will be built and which islands will be served.

It is a fact that the Housing Board group has just now been appointed and that the Council may veto their recommendations, when they are made.

It is a fact that there is no voter pamphlet that gives people a full text of the ordinance and the traditional pro and con statements so voters can cast an informed vote.

It is a fact, that we already have the highest excise tax in the State and this moves it even higher.

It is a fact the excise tax will raise the cost to purchase land and homes, making it much harder for working first time homebuyers to get a foothold in San Juan County. Raising the bar for first time homebuyers is counterproductive.

It is a fact that if this REET passes an expanded government program with an additional $2,000,000 a year will be giving grants to other subsidized programs that will be out in the market competing with private buyers for what limited land is available for new homes. It may also expand the current program where a land trust buys existing homes and puts them in their housing pool. That will increase prices yet again for existing homes and be additional competition for buyers who simply want to own a home without government controls and strings.

I do support the Land Trusts and their efforts to provide affordable housing. I will not however, be voting for the REET.

John Evans
Doe Bay

How Will The Money Be Spent?

I have agonized about whether to say something about the Housing Bank tax, because I strongly believe in helping others. My main philosophy is, "Give a helping hand up rather than a hand out". In other words, show someone how to use the shovel, rather than digging the hole for him/her. More is learned from example and teaching than from gifting and granting. Simply put, I prefer the longer term solution of teaching and problem solving, over throwing tax dollars away as gifts and grants.

As a result, I have decided to vote against the Housing Bank tax. I would be more in favor of creating a County housing authority. A housing authority could control and invest our tax money as a long term investment for the community as a whole, rather than giving tax funds out as grants to select groups and individuals who are already operating successfully. A housing authority could also guarantee visibility and accountability of the tax dollars.

I also do not like being asked to approve a new tax without seeing a copy of the ordinance and plan for how the money will be spent.


Frank M. Penwell
San Juan Island

Tom Bauschke
John Evans
Mary Kalbert
Ron Keeshan
Gordy Petersen
Janice Peterson
Bruce Sallan
Terra Tamai
Amy Wynn
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