Toplines from last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting, from transit funding to ballot measures:
— 34th Democrats (@34dems) July 10, 2014
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In Q/A, Licata was asked why another version of the “head tax” was repealed in 2009, three years after it was passed as part of the Bridging the Gap transportation-money measure.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 34dems.org.