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September 2, 1970
Honorable R. Ted Bottiger
8849 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington 98444
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 118
You have recently requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Under the provisions of Article VII, § 10 (Amendment 47) to the Washington State Constitution, may the legislature enact a statute which would exempt from taxation the first $5,000 of assessed valuation of property owned and resided in by retired property owners?
Article VII, § 10 (Amendment 47) of our state Constitution reads as follows:
"Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 7, section 1 (Amendment 14) and Article 7, section 2 (Amendment 17), the following tax exemption shall be allowed as to real property:
"The legislature shall have the power, by appropriate legislation, to grant to retired property owners relief from the property tax on the real property occupied as a residence by those owners. The legislature may place such restrictions and conditions upon the granting of such relief as it shall deem proper. Such restrictions and conditions may include, but are not limited to, the limiting of the relief to those property owners below a specific level of income and those fulfilling certain minimum residential requirements."
As you are aware, the legislature has already enacted certain tax relief legislation under the provisions of this constitutional amendment (which was approved by [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] the voters at the November 1966 state general election). See, RCW 84.36.127-84.36.129, whereby the legislature has exempted certain qualified elderly retired persons from payment of the first fifty dollars of real property taxes due and owing against real property which they own and reside upon. We can see no constitutional difference between this legislative approach and that which is contemplated by your question. The language of the constitutional amendment authorizes the legislature to ". . . grant to retired property owners relief from the property tax on the real property occupied as a residence by those owners. . . ." It matters not, as we view it, whether this relief is granted in the form of a reduction in the dollar amount of taxes payable or a reduction in the assessed valuation of the property ‑ on the basis of which the tax bill is computed.
In so far as the uniformity clause of Article VII, § 1 (Amendment 14) of the Constitution is concerned, it is perfectly clear that this constitutional provision would not nullify such tax relief legislation as may be enacted in accordance with the provisions of Article VII, § 10 (Amendment 47), supra, for the reason that this constitutional amendment expressly states that the tax relief legislation contemplated by the amendment may be enacted by the legislature "Notwithstanding the provisions of Article 7, section 1 (Amendment 14) . . ."
Therefore, it would be our opinion that the legislative approach contemplated by your question would be constitutionally permissible.1/
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/In thus concluding, of course, we are not to be taken as having passed upon the constitutionality of any particular bill, for no bill as such has yet been submitted for our review.