Add to your list of November ballot measures a King County proposal to raise the sales tax by two-tenths of one percent – that’s 2 extra cents on 10 dollars spent. The County Council says it’s now up to voters – raise the sales tax, or face cuts in criminal-justice services. Read on for their official announcement, to which we’ll be adding the county and city – cities get a share of the $ – reactions that are rolling into the inbox:
Facing a projected $60 million budget deficit, the Metropolitan King County Council today approved sending to the voters in November a proposal to raise the sales and use tax in King County by two-tenths of one percent. The revenue raised by the ballot measure would go predominately to public safety services.
“It’s important to remember that the Council did not raise taxes today,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “We’re giving voters the chance to tell us if they support public safety services provided by King County and every other city in the County.”
“Keeping the public safe is an essential County function,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “Voters deserve the opportunity to decide whether critical criminal justice services should be preserved.”
“A sales tax increase is absolutely necessary to save vital services such as sheriffs, prosecutors and programs that serve to lower our jail costs,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “What is at stake is the quality of life that we treasure so much in our county. This is the reason we are asking King County voters to support this crucial measure at the polls this November.”
“With public safety being the paramount concern of people in King County, voters must have a chance to weigh in about whether to cut $60 million in criminal justice services or preserve them with temporary higher taxes,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Knowing the difficult choice this will be for voters struggling through this Great Recession, I worked to lower the tax burden and add accountability to the proposal by including a three-year sunset provision.”
“The Council’s decision today is all about giving voters a choice,” said Councilmember Jan Drago. “Cutting $60 million from the budget will touch every part of county government, and that’s just too big a number and too big of a decision to make without the public’s input. We need to know what people are willing to pay for or willing to give up in these tough economic times.”
If approved by voters, the increase would generate approximately $59 million in revenue for King County in 2011 and $80 million in 2012, the first full year the levy would be collected. Under the proposal, the County’s portion of the proceeds would be used solely for public safety programs ranging from the Sheriff and Prosecutor’s Office to Public Defense and Jail Health Services.
In addition, 40 percent of the tax proceeds would go to the 39 cities within King County based on their population. This would mean that approximately $24 million would go to city governments with the County. State law requires that cities must spend one-third of the proceeds on criminal justice services.
The sales tax increase would remain in effect for a maximum of three years.
Along with an increase in the sales tax, the measure would use a portion of the County’s unincorporated area levy—$9.5 million in 2011—to fund police services in the County’s unincorporated communities.
The adopted ordinance now goes to the voters on November 2 as part of the general election ballot.
ADDED 6:38 PM: Seattle City Council reaction:
Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin and Councilmember Jean Godden, chair of Finance and Budget committee today responded to King County Council’s 5-4 vote to put 0.2 percent sales tax measure on the November ballot.
“We are all navigating rough waters because of the continuing recessionary impacts on resources for essential public services. While raising taxes is never an easy action to take, we understand the need for King County Council to take this difficult step to provide much needed revenue for public safety,” said Council President Richard Conlin.
“There are no easy solutions, and the county is still forced to close their funding gap with this tax increase,” said Councilmember Jean Godden. “Sadly, we need to rely on these short-term tax fixes until we pull out of this recession. As a city, we too will be forced to balance our budget by providing for urgent needs while reducing costs and identifying additional revenues.”
Council President Conlin will be in West Seattle on Wednesday night – 7 pm, Youngstown Arts Center – for the Delridge District Council meeting.