Bill to change tax options deserves Senate's support

By the Herald editorial staff

Letting property owners pay their tax assessment in 12 monthly installments isn't exactly an earth-shattering development.

But for many homeowners -- especially those on a fixed income -- switching from one large payment every six months to smaller monthly payments would be a welcome convenience.

Legislation that would allow the change cleared the House on a 76-22 vote Monday night. The Senate ought to follow suit.

The measure wouldn't help everyone. Roughly 40 percent of homeowners are carrying a mortgage and already make monthly contributions to an escrow account. The billwouldn't change anything for them.

Folks who may have paid off the mortgage but prefer paying a large property tax bill twice a year wouldn't have to change either.

Neither would county treasurers who aren't yet ready to offer a monthly payment plan for whatever reason. Offering the service would be entirely optional.

In other words, even if the bill becomes law, no one is affected unless a willing taxpayer is matched to a willing county treasurer. It's status quo for everyone else.

If this option becomes available to taxpayers, it will be largely because of the hard work of Benton County Treasurer Duane Davidson and Walla Walla County Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner.

The two have nursed the legislation along, pushing for changes to deal with objections from their counterparts in counties across the state and lobbying lawmakers to approve the measure.

Under the current bill, not only would monthly payments be optional, but counties also would be able to add a service fee to cover any additional costs.

The bill is still opposed by the Washington Association of County Treasurers, which is a little puzzling.

No doubt some of the organization's members worry that even if the law allows them to opt out, constituents' demands would force them to offer monthly payment plans.

Frankly, forcing elected officials to make an effort to meet the public's needs sounds like a good argument for the bill, not against it.