It's time for Referendum 48 opponents to keep their promise
by Don C. Brunell, President, Association of Washington Business
Opponents of Referendum 48, the property rights law, assured voters they were not against property rights, they just didn't like the law passed in the 1995 legislature. They pledged to pass a new law that would be clearer and cleaner.
Voters should make sure they keep that promise.
Supporters and opponents alike agreed that Referendum 48 was flawed, and they also agreed that something needs to be done to protect landowners from having their property taken without compensation.
Both the United States and Washington State constitutions explicitly prohibit government from taking private property without compensation.
But courts have often ruled that virtually all the property has to be lost or set aside to constitute a "taking."
In the meantime, government regulators, under the veil of "public benefit," have forced many people to surrender their rights to use their property without paying them a single penny.
I speak from personal experience. Half of our four-acre parcel in Thurston County is wetland.
Because our house sits on part of the property, our real estate taxes are based on the "highest and best use" classification.
But because of the wetland, we can't sub-divide our property. Still, Thurston County refuses to lower our taxes on the wetlands portion, and refuses to acknowledge that what they're doing constitutes a taking.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is we are paying taxes on what is essentially public land.
Referendum 48 set out to correct situations like that, and although it may have gone too far, it is time for Governor Lowry and lawmakers in Olympia to sit down and draft legislation which strikes a balance between promoting public interest and protecting private property.
They can't duck it any longer.
Property rights is an issue sweeping the nation, because taxpayers are fed up with government regulators confiscating private property in the name of public benefit.