Seattle tax alternatives for transit, North Highline ballot measure, more @ 34th District Democrats:

Toplines from last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting, from transit funding to ballot measures:

TRANSIT-TAX ALTERNATIVE: Councilmember Nick Licata pitched the proposal for an employer “head tax” and increased commercial-parking tax to raise money to prevent Metro cuts in Seattle, instead of a sales-tax hike. He said there are “three strong arguments” for it – first, reliability, since sales tax is vulnerable “to downturns in our economy” but the commercial-parking tax continued to grow even during the recession years; second, he said, “it’s a stronger connection” between saving transit and parking vehicles; third, the sales tax makes the already-regressive tax situation even more regressive, and Licata thinks the city “keeps going back and back” to the sales-tax well too often. The main argument against it, he said, is that “the business community will say, why are you burdening us?” when the minimum-wage increase already is going to affect businesses and when it might make Seattle look like a bad place to do business.

Licata countered that last one by pointing out that Seattle is the third-fastest-growing city and it would take a lot to slow that down. He says bottom line, his proposal would have less of an impact “on the average person” than the sales-tax hike currently proposed. He says the City Council will meet today as the Transportation Benefit District Board with transit money on the agenda, and that discussions also will continue later this month in the committee he chairs (Finance and Culture).

In Q/A, Licata was asked why another version of the “head tax” was repealed in 2009, three years after it was passed as part of the Bridging the Gap transportation-money measure. He blamed the recession and administrative costs – too complicated, but this time it won’t be, he said, and he noted that this time they’re proposing $18 per employee, while previously it was $25. Responding to another question, Licata said it will apply to the same category of employers as the B&O tax – $100,000 gross or more.

(Note that to raise enough money to avoid Metro cuts in Seattle, both the plan Licata proposes and the plan the mayor supposes would be accompanied by a $60 vehicle-tab tax, as was the measure rejected countywide – despite approval from two-thirds of Seattle voters – last spring.)

Councilmember Tom Rasmussen followed his colleague to the microphone, saying that additional transit funding to avoid cuts that will affect “almost every route in the 34th District” is vital, but he focused on the mayor-and-council-endorsed sales-tax-increase proposal, saying that the taxing alternatives supported by Licata could be used “for other needs” instead.

In the end, 34th Dems members voted to table the resolution proposing endorsement of Licata’s measure. Asked to explain the timetable, Rasmussen said they have to vote by August 5th on whether to send sales tax/car-tab fee plan to the ballot, but the Licata-supported money-raising options could be implemented without a ballot measure.

PARK DISTRICT BALLOT MEASURE: Ballots go out next week for the August 5th election, and the Seattle ballot is topped by the proposal to create a permanent Park District with taxing authority (sent to voters with a council vote back in March). Councilmembers Rasmussen and Licata both briefly spoke to urge support for it; the 34th Dems already have endorsed it and will advocate for it while boothing at West Seattle Summer Fest this weekend. Tom Rasmussen pitched it at the Admiral Neighborhood Association Tuesday night – WSB story still in the works – and again here, briefly, last night (Licata also voiced support). He was asked to take questions. First, it was pointed out from the audience that funding for community centers is a key part of what would be funded. Later in the meeting, it was noted that since the 34th Dems are backing the measure, they will be promoting it this weekend at West Seattle Summer Fest.

‘CLASS SIZE MATTERS’ INITIATIVE: Sanislo Elementary teacher Heather Woodruff talked about Initiative 1351, aimed at reducing class sizes in our state’s schools. Signatures are being gathered to try to get it on the statewide ballot this November. Read more about it here. She explained how her job as a teacher requires spending time checking in with her students each day. She has 23 students right now, but if this initiative passed, she said, the goal would be 15, and that would make a huge difference, she said. “We will not stay a well-educated state if we don’t do something to remedy this,” she concluded.

State Rep. Eileen Cody asked the big question: How would the state pay for it (especially in light of the school-funding court order that still hasn’t been fulfilled? Woodruff said the big point is to at least get people thinking and talking about this, that “class size matters.” (The cost would be $3.5 billion – more than a tenth of the entire state budget – it was noted.)

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT BENEFIT CHARGE: If you live in White Center or elsewhere in unincorporated North Highline, this proposal will be on your August 5th ballot, and a pitch for support was made at the meeting, after which the 34th DDs voted to endorse it. Find out more about the proposal in this story on our partner site White Center Now (including video of an explanatory presentation at last month’s NH Unincorporated Area Council meeting).

STATE INITIATIVE 1329 UPDATE: Ann Martin, who’s been campaigning for the measure to “get big money out of politics,” says they didn’t get enough signatures to make the ballot but they did gather more than 170,000 and they will use that support base to work toward its ultimate goals. “We are not dead yet,” Martin declared.

COMING UP: July 30th, 6 pm, at Shelter 3 on the beach at Lincoln Park, it’s the 34th Dems’ summertime picnic – “no speeches,” promised chair Marcee Stone-Vekich when announcing this … August 15th, 6 pm, at the Technology Access Foundation‘s White Center facility in Lakewood Park, it’s this year’s Garden Party fundraiser … The organization plans to have a presence at most of the major events coming up in the West Seattle-White Center area, including parades and festivals … Info is online at

22 Replies to "Seattle tax alternatives for transit, North Highline ballot measure, more @ 34th District Democrats:"

  • Rob July 10, 2014 (9:53 am)


  • WSEA July 10, 2014 (10:22 am)

    Wish we could simply the tax code. Politicians love the complex structure since they have many ways to bury new revenue. If I can’t raise sales tax, I will go after property tax, if not, I will look at B&O tax, or corporate tax, or car tabs ……. The list goes on.

  • WestofJunction July 10, 2014 (10:38 am)

    Require the DEVELOPERS to pay a tax!

  • West Seattle since 1979 July 10, 2014 (11:14 am)

    WestofJunction mentions taxing developers. Does anyone know why it hasn’t been mentioned by any of the city officials, at least recently? Seems like it’d be a good way to make up part of the deficit, since the new apartment buildings will have fewer parking spaces with the idea that at least some renters will choose to go carless and use transit.

    Or am I overlooking something?

    • WSB July 10, 2014 (11:17 am)

      It has been suggested to city leaders. We have interviewed city leaders and asked them (past two mayors, for example). Nobody has picked up the ball and run with it yet. One actually suggested it might add too much to the cost of development …

  • redblack July 10, 2014 (11:21 am)

    re: the B&O tax: taxed on $100,000+ annual gross revenue, so much for the argument that B&O is bad for small business in seattle. another anti-taxation myth debunked.
    however, i would increase that threshold to $150,000. revenue below $100K is more like tiny business, and likely barely pays a lone owner/oprator’s income, let alone an employee’s.
    as far as the $15/hr minimum wage, it’s going to be phased in over 7 years for small businesses. if seattle government starts managing its cut of our booming economy progressively and wisely, the deleterious effects of higher wages will be minimal.
    we need visionary leaders, who don’t rubber-stamp development simply for progress’ sake. we need the infrastructure to support rapidly increasing density.
    how about a progressive city income tax to go with rising minimum wages? such a tax would help ensure that we have the world-class smart transportation and infrastructure that we deserve.
    re: I-1329: 170,000 signatures isn’t enough to qualify for a statewide initiative? does anyone know offhand how many sigs it takes to qualify?

  • Jim July 10, 2014 (11:24 am)

    Wouldn’t a tax on developers just increase the cost of housing? Isn’t that already high enough around here?

  • Gotb July 10, 2014 (12:36 pm)

    West of Junction: Under state law, cities cannot levy development impact fees.
    Jim: You are correct. Even if such a tax were legal, all it would do is force housing prices in Seattle even higher.

  • WestofJunction July 10, 2014 (12:47 pm)

    Jim, rents are based on supply and demand – actual costs are somewhat incidental. However, the construction of units is directly related to the demand on transit.

  • skeeter July 10, 2014 (1:00 pm)

    Developers already pay taxes. Why tax developers higher than existing owners? Just because something is new doesn’t mean it should subsidize the existing properties.

  • Diane July 10, 2014 (2:06 pm)

    most developers are getting huge tax exemptions that homeowners do not get; and developers are already gouging renters with insane rents/fees/extra charges; developers are making HUGE profits

  • WestofJunction July 10, 2014 (4:39 pm)

    Gotb – they can and should change the laws. And back to Econ 101 – something is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Demand drives price, not costs. Say you have two apartment buildings – similar size, etc. One was bought 30 years ago and is paid for. The other was just bought with a 20%-25% down payment (75% or 80% loan). Who has the big mortgage? Can the one with the big mortgage charge proportionately more? Nope. Most commercial RE is purchased via variable rate loans, for far shorter periods than your typical home mortgage – interest rates are the biggest cost component. But again, the driver is demand – higher costs affect the sales value of the property, not rents.

    Skeeter – the developers are creating the infrastructure problems re transit and roads – if they get to build with little or no parking, they are earning way more per square foot (parking cannot be rented out for what they can get for liveable space). Why should I or my employer subsidize new residents?

  • JoAnne July 10, 2014 (5:40 pm)

    Why doesn’t anyone talk about Metro being more conservative with their spending?
    All you people do is sit around dreaming up ways to raise taxes on squeezed middle-class people.

  • WestofJunction July 10, 2014 (7:40 pm)

    JoAnne, unfortunately it ain’t gonna happen.

  • Chris July 10, 2014 (8:53 pm)

    JoAnne – please explain what you mean with specific examples of where Metro can be “more conservative” with their spending.


  • WestofJunction July 11, 2014 (10:15 am)

    Chris, you are truly a gifted comedian.

  • wetone July 11, 2014 (11:20 am)

    Curious as to the big fleet of new hybrid buses that were purchased a few years ago and never put into use are they still sitting idle ? get sold hummm…… what was the cost on that deal. As far as developers being charged more fees that’s a no brainer yes. Just look at the roads and impacts in areas they are doing work and have been. Always worse off from all the heavy truck and equipment ingress/egress. Leaving locals paying to fix the infrastructure after their gone. Politicians don’t have the guts to stand up to developers in this town as they fear more from them than the people they were hired/elected to represent.

  • JoAnne July 11, 2014 (8:00 pm)

    Chris are you serious???
    Do you have any idea of the HUGE revenue stream Metro is already sucking up?
    By comparison, look at the service provided by Snohomish and Pierce counties and their budgets.
    Most voters understood this when they rejected Prop 1. Please educate yourself so that you can tell when someone is selling you a bill of goods.

  • redblack July 12, 2014 (9:12 am)

    comparing a transit agency that serves the 13th most populous county in america to those that serve snohomish and pierce counties is ridiculous.
    it’s high time for metro to slash service to the anti-government hinterlands and concentrate on seattle – where most of their revenue is generated anyway.

  • J.R. July 12, 2014 (10:11 am)

    JoAnne, some numbers might be nice. And what were your specific examples again?

  • M July 12, 2014 (12:30 pm)

    JoAnne, Community Transit has zero Sunday service. Is that how you are suggesting Metro could save money?

  • Jim Biava July 12, 2014 (4:04 pm)

    Funny how many want services of some kind but don’t want to pay for them. There are 2 meanings to Freedom isn’t Free.

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