State Rep. Jim Walsh Proposes Constitutional Amendment Creating California-Style Property Tax Cap


State Rep. Jim Walsh, R–Aberdeen, introduced a bill on Thursday proposing a constitutional amendment creating a cap on property taxes similar to California’s “Prop 13” law. 

Under the proposal, property taxes on owner-occupied primary residences would be based on the purchase price when the owner-occupier purchased the property. A homeowner’s property taxes would then be forbidden from increasing due to an increase in their home’s value. The taxable value of the property would then reset when the owner sells the property.

In a statement, Walsh compared the proposal to other California policies he believes Washington state has emulated in recent years.

“My constituents constantly ask me, as well as people from all parts of Washington, why we can’t have a ‘California Proposition 13’ type of property tax system in this state. A system under which your property taxes are fixed, or fairly fixed, at one rate as long as you own your house or property. When I explain in order to do that, we would have to amend the Washington state Constitution, the response I usually get is, ‘OK, let’s do that,’” Walsh said. “For years, I’ve explained how difficult it is to amend the constitution. But people generally stand firm in their position. Sometimes, they’ll say, ‘We copy so much of the bad stuff they do in California. Why don’t we copy some of the good stuff?’”

Walsh said in sponsoring the proposed changes he’s “surrendering to the voices of Washington homeowners.” He said the proposal would “radically change” the way property taxes are done in Washington, which he believes would be good for the state. 

“Washington homeowners have seen their property taxes skyrocket over the past decade. And the increases have been especially bad in just the past few years. Some of my constituents have seen annual increases of 30% and even 50%,” Walsh said. “These hikes far outpace inflation, the growth of the state’s economy, or any other standard economic metric. They are crushing Washington’s working families, retirees and people living on fixed incomes. Regular, middle-class people are literally being taxed out of their homes. This isn’t sustainable.”

In closing his statement, Walsh referred to his proposal as a “dramatic response” to what he considered a crisis.

The 2023 legislative session began on Monday.