Note: This is part of a series, highlighting Initiative933 in Washington. I-933 requires taxpayers to compensate propertyowners for “losses” resulting from planning.
Simply complying with I-933 would be extremely expensive. That’s because I-933 demands massive paperwork burdens and bureaucratic shuffling for even the smallest zoning change. The best estimates show that administration alone would likely cost somwhere in the $1 to $2 billion range each year. (And this figure does not include the cost of paying out any claims.)
That’s not exactly the kind of money you scrounge up out of the couch in coins. So who would pay for it?
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The answer, I fear, is taxpayers. That’s what may happen in Oregon.
In Oregon, Measure 37 is much less aggressive, but compliance is already straining government agencies. And in addition to the costs of compliance, some Oregon communities don’t want to waive their laws—they may want to protect farmland, forests, or simply plan for orderly development—but they have no money to pay landowners, which is their only other option.
The answer to the funding problem may be a new tax in Oregon. In fact, the Eugene city council is already taking a hard look at a new “windfall” tax on property owners who realize an economic benefit from government action. The Eugene Register-Guard has an op-ed pointing out that the tax is imperfect and undesirable, but may be the best choice available.
Given that Oregon is struggling to pay for its much less expensive Measure 37, where will Washington find $1 to $2 billion to comply with I-933? It can’t come from claimant fees—those are prohibited by initiative. I suppose it could come from slashing existing government programs. But I’m betting that if I-933 passes, taxpayers should get ready to open their wallets.