Stiff competition for an obscure fee

Staff writerJanuary 28, 2014 

Republicans in the Senate have their eyes on an obscure fee on the recording of real-estate documents as they try to find money to replace the recreational Discover Pass.

But there's going to be competition for the document fee. It goes now to housing programs, and anti-homelessness advocates want to keep it that way.

The fee is $40. Ten dollars of that is supposed to expire in July 2015, and that's the piece senators want to extend and divert to parks. Another $20 expires in July 2017.

Advocates with the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance are lobbying in Olympia Tuesday. They say if the fees sunset, more than 60 percent of homelessness funding would be lost, some emergency shelters and transitional housing facilities would have to close and short-term rent assistance to landlords would be cut nearly in half. 

The end result, the group says, is that 32,000 fewer homeless people would find housing.

The Inslee administration's Department of Commerce has proposed legislation to eliminate the sunsets while also expanding the set of recorded documents that would be subject to the fees. It's sponsored by a couple of Tacoma Democrats, Sen. Jeannie Darneille and Rep. David Sawyer.

More important is the potential that House Speaker Frank Chopp will get involved. In the past, Chopp has been the most influential backer of levying the fees for housing.

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