County commissioners can raise taxes

August 22nd, 2016 by Ken

Can Thurston County Commissioners, who don’t live in rural areas, raise taxes on those who do?

The correct answer is YES.

A group of rural residents say that since none of the county’s commissioners lived in the rural areas when they created a Transportation Benefit District a few years ago, that they can’t raise the price of buying car tabs to residents in the rural areas.

That’s just nonsense.   Commissioners have the legal authority to do that, just like the city councils of Olympia and Tumwater have done and that Lacey is considering.

But, those rural residents do have a point.  Why should three commissioners, who all lived in Olympia at that time, have the right to tax rural residents – – or even draft land use regulations for rural residents?   Those commissioners would not be impacted by any rules or taxes they drafted.   It is taxation and regulation without representation.

The fault lies with our current political system.   The three commissioner districts in the county run north to south.  All three take in a portion of the City of Olympia, where all three county commissioners lived.   Since Olympia and the urban areas of Lacey and Tumwater, are the big dogs of the county, they often provide the voter support the county commissioners need to be elected or re-elected.

One answer is to redraw the county commissioner boundaries to assure that rural residents would have a voice on the commission.   The best way to do that is to call for a new county charter which could redraw the boundaries.  Another way is to elect residents of the rural areas to the county commission.

Both are possible if voters care about the problem.

Posted in Government, Local Politics, The Real News

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