Port of Tacoma taxes on Pierce County businesses and homeowners should be eliminated. The port levies taxes at the rate of $.182 per $1,000 assessed value as authorized by RCW 53.
County homeowners are paying $40 on home values on average, plus a share of business property taxes, during the current economic recovery period with declining home values, high unemployment and foreclosures. Port of Tacoma tax revenues have more than doubled from $7.4 million in 2001 to $16.2 million in 2010. Port staff has increased by 20 percent.
The port is a $31.5 billion business serving domestic and international shippers and providing statewide and national benefits as a major international port of entry. Pierce County taxpayers underwrite 13 percent of port annual costs. Local taxes are used to fund infrastructure improvements & environmental projects.
These improvements indirectly subsidize shipping rates by artificially reducing terminal fees and facility rental costs for China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, which together shipped nearly $26 billion of trade through the port in 2011. In 2011, these countries had a $400 billion trade imbalance with the U.S.
The Port of Tacoma ought to be financially self-sufficient and fund projects through higher port user fees, not by local property taxes. Increasing shippers’ costs by 1/20th of 1 per cent ($16.2 million/$31.5 billion) could replace local tax revenues.
Eliminating port taxes on Pierce County homeowners would provide a more equitable and fair economic policy by having those that use port facilities and consume transshipped goods pay for their fair share of transportation services, wherever they reside.