Progress made on bill to allow monthly property tax payments

State representatives have passed the measure, but an identical bill died in the Senate and the deadline is approaching.

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A bill to allow landowners to make monthly property tax payments advanced this week, but still faces obstacles.

House Bill 2962 was approved Monday by state representatives. The measure passed by a vote of 76-22 with state Reps. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, and Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, voting for it.

The bill would allow county treasurers to offer prepayments for property taxes on a monthly or other periodic basis and, with the agreement of the taxpayer, have the payments automatically deducted from bank accounts. "We are asking legislators to give us the same ability other businesses have," said Gordon Heimbigner, Walla Walla County treasurer.

Although approved by the House, the measure must also pass in the Senate and then be signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire. In the state Senate an identical bill, SB 6768, died in committee. The cutoff date for the current measure to pass the Senate is Tuesday, Heimbigner said.

At a January hearing before the state House Committee on Local Government & Housing, Heimbigner testified in favor of the bill along with Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson, Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher and Rep. Tim Probst, D-17th District.

Proponents argued that as well as providing the monthly payment option, the measure would also help smooth county revenue streams and save mailing costs.

Testifying in opposition, Rose Bowman of the Washington Association of County Treasurers argued that county treasurers already accept electronic payments and the bill would create competition with savings banks and escrow companies. In addition she testified that despite discussion between themselves, county treasurers have yet to reach consensus on electronic bill payment concepts.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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