The Senate budget writing committee voted Monday to pass a bill out of committee that would temporarily extend a $40 fee that helps pay for homeless shelters, low-income housing and other homeless services.
Many of those services are currently paid for by a $40 document recording fee collected during certain real estate transactions, such as a buying or refinancing a house. The fee is set to decrease starting next year unless the Legislature takes action.
Senate Bill 5875 would extend the fee for one year, until July 2016. It also creates a workgroup to look for alternative funding sources in the future.
More than 20 people testified at a public hearing on the bill Monday, including homeless advocates who say they rely on the fees to provide services across the state.
Flo Beaumon of Catholic Community Services testified in opposition to the Senate bill, and urged lawmakers to make the fee permanent. “We know what works and we need to be able to keep on doing it,” she said. “The sunset pulls the rug out from under the feet of somebody who just got up on those feet.”
Speaking in support of the measure, Bill Clarke of Washington Realtors said the fee is “not the funding source we like” but it keeps the issue moving forward while also studying alternative funding sources. “Our belief is a more stable, less volatile funding source than document recording fees should exist,” he said.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted to pass the bill later Monday night. Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said the bill is a “good way to move the discussion forward and to keep this bill alive and to keep this discussion alive.”
Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said one year is not enough of an extension. “I think it’s critical that we get this done,” he said.
“They need to project into their human services budgets money from this account. I really hope that we can approve and strengthen this bill forthwith,” Frockt said.
A competing bill, House Bill 2368, would make the fees permanent. It passed out of the House, but did not get a vote in the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Housing & Insurance Committee.