Monthly Archives: December 2019

  • Permalink Gallery

    Property tax relief for seniors, veterans coming in the new year

Property tax relief for seniors, veterans coming in the new year

December 11th, 2019|

A new law will help many seniors by raising the property tax exemption limit in King County from $40,000 to $58,423.

From the Kirkland Reporter

By Sen. Manka Dhingra

Rising property values and living costs are squeezing people here on the Eastside, but not all feel the pinch equally. Our state’s strong economy and the prosperity it brings are the envy of the country, but it’s our responsibility to make sure that prosperity for some doesn’t leave others behind. Too many seniors and veterans who bought their homes in a different era are struggling to keep up with property taxes on home values that reflect the economy of today.

The crunch is being felt across the state. Take Peggi Reese and her husband Jim Reese for example. The couple have been pillars of the Yelm community for a long time. They worked for the school district for 35 years and in 2016 were chosen to be grand marshals of the Christmas parade. When Jim, a Vietnam War veteran, died in late 2018 from the lingering effects of Agent Orange, Peggi was in danger of losing her ability to stay in her home.

People like Peggi have given decades of their lives to their communities, and now that they’re on fixed incomes, they’re struggling to stay where their families, friends, doctors and churches are.

That’s why I sponsored a bill this year (SB 5160) that provides $20 million in property tax relief to help people like Peggi who can least afford an increase — senior citizens, people with disabilities and disabled veterans — stay in their own homes.

The previous senior property tax exemption was only available to households with incomes of $40,000 or less per year, no matter where they lived. We all know that the cost of living and home values are a lot higher in King County than in Spokane.

The new law sets the income limit at 65 percent of the median household income in each county. That means that for King County, the new limit is $58,423 and will rise with incomes. In addition, the law expands eligibility so that more disabled veterans will qualify.

Using a threshold tied to the county median income targets the policy so it assists seniors who need it most while protecting the budgets of small counties that aren’t seeing fast growth.

The benefits of this expansion will go beyond its recipients. Giving people the ability to age in place leads to much better quality of life and health for them, decreasing medical costs and helps keep communities intact. It also prevents homelessness before it starts. One of the most effective tools to end homelessness is keeping people in their current homes.

The law takes effect in 2020 and applications will be available in January. You can find information about eligibility and how to apply on the King County Assessor’s website.

In May, Peggi joined us at the bill signing for the new law. The changes that it makes will allow her to stay in the home that she and her husband Jim shared. In the coming years, it will help thousands more seniors, veterans, and disabled people stay in their homes too.

The Kirkland Senior Council and the city of Kirkland want to help local older adults understand the new senior property tax exemptions and deferments by hosting a community forum with King County tax assessor John Wilson from 2:30-4 p.m on Jan. 10, 2020 at the Peter Kirk Community Center (352 Kirkland Ave). This new law will help many seniors by raising the exemption limit from $40,000 to $58,423. You can pre-register for this free event by calling 425-587-3360.

Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond) represents the 45th Legislative District. She is the deputy majority leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

  • Permalink Gallery

    Sex-trafficked children are victims and deserve help — not detention

Sex-trafficked children are victims and deserve help — not detention

December 1st, 2019|

Special to The Seattle Times

This past summer, the world stopped for a moment in collective horror when ultrawealthy financier and registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was once again indicted on a charge of child sex trafficking and sexual abuse of young girls.

His ties to the rich and powerful were splashed across tabloids, reflecting a garish political soap opera. Most of the media coverage focused largely on Epstein’s connections from across the political spectrum, reaching a full-blown frenzy following his sudden death.

It was sensational. It was appalling. And there was no justice for survivors.

That moment of global outrage from last summer didn’t last long enough. Epstein may be gone, but child sex trafficking remains an international epidemic. Washington is no exception.

The number of cases of child trafficking counted by the National Human Trafficking Hotline each year has more than doubled since 2012, to 2,378 — and those are just the cases that get reported. In the Seattle/King County area alone, law enforcement estimates 300-500 children are being trafficked on average.

This isn’t an easy issue to tackle. We must make sure that the voices of our children are not stolen and silenced.

This is exactly how Epstein operated. And it’s happening quietly across our state and our nation.

But in Washington, we are listening and doing something about it.

In the last decade, we have seen positive changes at the local level. Collaborative regional public information campaigns in King County between government and private industry have brought the issue out of the shadows, increasing the number of trafficking survivors who are connected to resources. King County has stopped charging children with prostitution and has more than quadrupled the number of charges brought against men trying to buy sex from minors. And our society is slowly changing the culture, moving away from harmfully labeling abused youth as “child prostitutes,” because children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation. They can’t consent to sex at all.

These are our children. They are suffering from complex trauma. They have unique challenges that need thoughtful, tailored interventions. And it’s on us to help them heal. But we are nowhere near eradicating this form of slavery. Our Legislature must do more to support the victims of these crimes.

In preparation for the 2020 legislative session, we are crafting evidence-based policy reforms to the way our justice system interacts with children who are victims of these sex crimes.

First, the legislation will prohibit charging anyone under the age of 18 with the crime of prostitution. Second, it will allow law enforcement officers to take child victims into custody for their protection when circumstances present a danger to the child’s safety. Finally, it will pilot two therapeutic receiving centers, one on each side of the Cascades, where law enforcement can take sexually exploited youth instead of detention. There, they can finally begin to process and recover.

If these children were victims of other sexually motivated crimes, law enforcement would consider bringing charges of statutory rape or sexual assault of a minor against their abuser. Simply because their abuse is paid for, it is the child who ends up in the criminal justice system. That is not justice.

The media spectacle centered on Epstein showed that sexual exploitation can come clothed in the outward signs of wealth and respectability, but it also gave the impression that the crimes it uncovered are rare. They aren’t. Ultimately, it distracted the world from the gravest injustice: Our legal system should not be in the business of further punishing children for the horrors inflicted upon them by predatory adults.

These young people don’t deserve punishment — they’ve experienced enough for a lifetime. They need help and resources. Getting them out of danger and providing them wraparound services is how we can begin to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children and heal our kids.