VIDEO: Mayor unveils proposed transportation levy: $1.35 billion over eight years. Now, your turn to sculpt it

(Added: Seattle Channel video)

3:33 PM: Mayor Bruce Harrell has just debuted the first draft of his proposed transportation-levy renewal. The current Levy to Move Seattle is expiring after nine years and $930 million, covering 30 percent of the city’s transportation budget; the new levy would run for the next eight years, raising $1.35 billion. Harrell was clear that this is “the start of a discussion” – as with the expiring levy, this one will likely go through some changes before a final version is sent to the November ballot. The summary of the levy says, “The proposed levy would cost the median Seattle homeowner about $36 per month, approximately $12 more per month than the current levy.” (A current “median home” is considered to be valued at $866,000.)

Here’s the full draft proposal. It includes a few West Seattle specifics as example projects the levy could/would fund:

Fauntleroy Way SW — Paving to keep roadway functional during light rail station construction and support future improvements.

35th Ave SW: SW Morgan St to SW Alaska St — Street reconstruction with a corridor safety analysis and evaluation of transit improvements. Includes sidewalk repair, crossing improvements, and evaluation of bike routes.

Olson Pl SW / 1st Ave S: 2nd Ave SW to SW Cloverdale St — Street reconstruction with a widened sidewalk or trail and treatments to keep vehicles from skidding on wet pavement.

As mentioned in the Fauntleroy description above, some of this would synergize with the upcoming Sound Transit light-rail expansion to West Seattle (which is projected to open just as this new levy expires at the end of 2032), including “connections” for the West Seattle Junction station, and ST’s interim CEO Goran Sparrman (who is also a former SDOT director) spoke at the unveiling. (added) The 35th SW project is also notable, as the corridor went through rechannelization and other changes south of Morgan in the 2010s before the idea of an overhaul north of Morgan was shelved in 2018 (with some spot changes then made, such as the Graham crossing and the Camp Long light).

WHAT’S NEXT: You have three weeks – until April 26 – to offer feedback to shape the final levy proposal the mayor sends to the City Council in May; go here to do that. The final version of the levy is expected to go to voters this November.

ADDED 5:48 PM: District 1 Councilmember Rob Saka, who chairs the Transportation Committee and will lead the council review of the levy proposal, sent this statement:

This Transportation Levy is a once-in-a-decade chance to build a safer, better connected and more reliable Seattle.

Over my first 100 days in office, I have helped fill potholes with road maintenance crews, walked along city streets in desperate need of sidewalks, and surveyed the state of Seattle’s bridges. At every turn, I saw SDOT employees hard at work with limited resources doing everything they can with to keep our city safe. Now, it’s time for us elected leaders to step up and make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs better, faster, and more effectively.

I appreciate Mayor Harrell’s work on this framework for the levy and see we are in alignment on many key issues. The Council has a lot of hard work ahead of it to review and improve upon this proposal. I am ready and eager to lead that collaborative effort.

62 Replies to "VIDEO: Mayor unveils proposed transportation levy: $1.35 billion over eight years. Now, your turn to sculpt it"

  • Bill April 4, 2024 (4:21 pm)

    Fauntleroy Way SW — Paving to keep roadway functional during light rail station construction and support future improvements. — oughtn’t this bit be covered by Sound Transit?  Why is SDOT required to come up with funds for SoundTransit’s project?

    • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy April 4, 2024 (6:34 pm)

      Fauntleroy near Oregon is already a wreck. Every few feet a giant crack style pothole. It’s been like this for many years. Makes it fun to bicycle. Not that I try to bike on this road basically ever. Still not good on car tires.

  • Darren April 4, 2024 (4:30 pm)

    Find another revenue source other than proptery ownersdeath by a thousand cuts 

    • WSB April 4, 2024 (5:36 pm)

      As I’m sure you know, state law dramatically restricts potential revenue sources.

      • Niko April 5, 2024 (12:02 am)

        You know I’m frankly tired of hearing that as an excuse. They collect massive amounts of money we should have something to show for it

    • Bbron April 4, 2024 (7:16 pm)

      contact your legislator about an income tax

      • Canton April 4, 2024 (9:49 pm)

        You do realize a income tax has been voted down for many years. These taxes are a way to separate the people from their earnings. If people had expendable income, they would donate to charities of their choice, not give it to wasteful government entities. The power of politicians, is to collect pubic taxes, to distribute at THEIR will. So you will praise them, for how they spend OUR money, to better their political agenda…

        • Bbron April 9, 2024 (12:36 am)

          “taxation is theft” 🥱 boring, misinformed position. prove to me you’ve never used a service funded by taxes, and then I’ll start listening

      • Bill Wald April 6, 2024 (5:59 pm)

        Our state constitution prohibits graduated income taxes.  I propose a 1% flat tax.

        • Bbron April 9, 2024 (12:34 am)

          no, that’d still be a regressive tax, and one worst than either property or sales tax…

  • Jeff April 4, 2024 (4:33 pm)

    WAY WAY WAY too small of a budget. Wow…

    • Agree April 4, 2024 (7:28 pm)

      I thought the same.   Needs to be twice the budget.   Projects are expensive.   

  • CarDriver April 4, 2024 (4:49 pm)

    If the money was actually going to go for what they actually say it’s supposed to would be an easy yes. Problem is trust. Too many examples of things not getting done and no word on why the money wasn’t spent on what they promised. City needs to document that what they say the money is for is exactly what the money is spent on. Will that happen? I doubt it.

  • whataboutthecreedence April 4, 2024 (4:51 pm)

    I take issue with how they frame this as a “per month” cost for homeowners, to somehow lighten a BILLION AND A THIRD DOLLAR BURDEN we need to carry. Hard no vote from me.

    • K April 4, 2024 (8:39 pm)

      Why would they frame it as a billion and a third dollar burden when you are not personally burdened by a billion and a third dollars?  Your burden is a few bucks a month.

      • The King April 4, 2024 (10:47 pm)

        More than a few bucks. It’s $36 extra a month for the next eight years. Totaling $3456. If you live in a median home price you’re already paying $721.66 a month for just property taxes. 

        • K April 5, 2024 (7:20 am)

          If your house is worth 1.8 million dollars, you can afford another $36 per month.  It’s going to cost me the equivalent of a cup of coffee every month, because I’m not a millionaire.  My property taxes are fine.  I pay less than I did living in another state (another state that ALSO had income taxes, mind you, although their road are much nicer than ours).  

          • Jay April 5, 2024 (9:11 am)

            Property taxes are regressive and have nothing to do with income. There are a lot of people on social security who have seen their homes go up bu a million dollars or more after retiring. A lot of people who get laid off and have no income but are still paying high taxes. When your home value goes up it’s not like you get a check, that money isn’t real unless you sell your home. Washington is the second most regressively taxed state, and the pain this puts on the middle class is what’s driving people toward politicians with a populist message that want to spend out tax money in even worse ways like Saka or Harrell.

          • whataboutthecreedence April 5, 2024 (10:28 am)

            You are making a lot of assumptions. Many people on fixed incomes live in Seattle. Another $36/mo might be minor to you, but what gives you the right to dictate what someone else’s money goes toward? I guess that’s why we vote.

          • K April 5, 2024 (10:59 am)

            I’m all for an income tax, don’t get me wrong.  I’m right there with you that our taxes are regressive as heck. But while Washington may be regressive, it is the the 22nd LEAST taxed state overall (there are 30 states with higher property tax burdens than Washington).  There is a lower tax rate for seniors over 61, if you recall, so seniors have a reduced tax burden.  There are also forbearance programs for people who have lost jobs or fallen on hard times.  It’s the renters who get squeezed by those circumstances you listed, not owners, because they don’t have the payment options owners do.  The bottom line is that things cost money, and until we have income tax, it’s your house that’s going to pay for it.  And, seriously, a cup of coffee seems well worth better roads.

          • 937 April 5, 2024 (1:10 pm)

            52 States?

          • zark00 April 5, 2024 (12:02 pm)

            Our property tax is a huge burden on some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Senior citizens especially, on a fixed income, are at huge risk of losing their homes and not being able to afford alternate housing.  Only cities with higher median property tax than Seattle are San Fran, San Jose, Oakland, and Austin.  Texas has the lowest individual income tax burden in the country, California is of course the highest, Washing has the highest sales and excise tax in the nation – another regressive tax that hits our most vulnerable the hardest.  The only place you could have possibly had a worse tax burden is a Bay Area city in CA – at which point, everyone would just say – duh. You’re view of taxes, how they work, and who they impact is childish at best. 

          • K April 5, 2024 (5:54 pm)

            @937, assuming you are referring to my post.  Please re-read.  We are 22nd least taxed in general, and 30 have higher property taxes than us.  Two different numbers.  One looks at overall tax burden, one just at property tax.  Helps to read the whole comment.  But always happy to come back and spell it out for you.
            @Zark00, you’re looking at tax bills, not tax rates, and those cities are mostly a list of who has the highest property values. Mercer Island has much higher tax bills than we do in Seattle, but a lower tax rate. Two different numbers. Please make sure you’re using the right one for comparisons.

          • 1994 April 5, 2024 (10:38 pm)

            Seattle Times, By Gene Balk / FYI Guy Among the 50 most populous U.S. cities, Seattle had the fifth highest median property tax bill. San Francisco was No. 1, at a little more than $9,000, followed by two other Bay Area cities, San Jose and Oakland. Austin, Texas, ranked fourth highest.

      • Alki resident April 5, 2024 (7:39 am)

        A few bucks adds up to more money already spent on taxes. How much extra cash do you have laying around?

      • whataboutthecreedence April 5, 2024 (10:26 am)

        Because doing so waters down the responsibility of government agencies to spend taxpayer money in an efficient and effective manner. Framing it as a minor monthly cost is akin to someone buying a car that’s way beyond what they can actually afford because they only look at the payment.

  • WS Taxpayer April 4, 2024 (5:23 pm)

    I need 1.35B to do stuff, not sure what, but I sure as heck will need it, and then some more in a couple years.  I hope someday one of these levys fail and our politicians do the real work to prioritize streamline our spending.  Sadly this will likely not be the one…

  • wsEthicist April 4, 2024 (5:24 pm)

    Glad that 35th will get fixed — it’s terrible for pedestrians as of now. 

    • platypus April 5, 2024 (8:53 am)

      Stoked to see it on the list!

  • Pete April 4, 2024 (5:58 pm)

    Would be interesting for them to publish a report to show what was proposed in the about to expire levy as opposed to what was actually accomplished. As I remember there was a tremendous discrepancy in the prior levy and the voters were promised that this existing levy would do better. 

  • wetone April 4, 2024 (6:13 pm)

    After how Seattle gov spent the last $930 mil.  accomplishing little of what levy dollars were intended for, it leaves me zero faith with today’s sales pitch. I will be voting no for this one and all other levy’s till Seattle government proves their spending habits change. Start with downsizing  mayors staff and making SDOT, SPU and Parks more accountable for projects and money spent. Seattle and King county have no problem bragging about money coming in from tourism…. where’s all that money going ?  as taxpayers continue subsidizing Port and tourism projects……..

  • flimflam April 4, 2024 (7:23 pm)

    Again, once a levy is in it never really expires, it just gets more expensive.

    • Mickymse April 5, 2024 (8:09 am)

      Of course levies don’t expire. That is part of how we fund our budgets now. And this is what we voted for thanks to Tim Eyman’s slick salesmanship. Levies exist because the base property tax funding stream was halted at 1% growth years ago. Republicans also argued that everyone should get a say on government spending. So here you go. If you don’t like it, tell your legislators to repeal the stupid cap.

      • 937 April 5, 2024 (2:23 pm)

        🛑 – your partisanship is showing.Eyman was 25 years ago – granted he started a populist movement – but bringing his name into this shows your emotion with the issues.

        You slap the “Republican” label on as an ad hominem (at best, at worst – a pejorative) meanwhile this city, county and state has been under Democrat rule for at least 30 years. Despite the recent election of a right leaning city attorney (hopefully a sign of things to come)

  • KD April 5, 2024 (1:31 am)

    If you’re fed up like me as a taxpayer, please vote NO. 

    • 937 April 5, 2024 (6:51 pm)

      I’ve been pining for “NO” votes on these stupid levies for years…

      The lockset mind of the Seattle Voter (TM) will disallow levy failure.

      Tighten that belt – your taxes are going up.

  • platypus April 5, 2024 (8:56 am)

    Money well spent. Seattle is doing a great job that is visible every day nearly everywhere. In just the past decade West Seattle has dramatically transformed for the better, this is only possible due to a million small projects making constant progress.

  • Jay April 5, 2024 (9:06 am)

    Just give us an income tax and knock it off with all of this regressive property and sales tax that over-taxes the poor and middle class.

    • whataboutthecreedence April 5, 2024 (10:29 am)

      You really think they’d get rid of other taxes once an income tax gets put in place? That’s a good one.

  • AK April 5, 2024 (9:58 am)

    NO! We pay enough in property taxes. And no income tax! Our older generation is already having a hard enough time keeping their houses due to tax after tax on our properties. Ugghhh 

    • Bbron April 5, 2024 (2:15 pm)

      an income tax would be a solution to “our older generation… having a hard enough time keeping their houses”. i’m not sure where you think money for necessary project will come from? unless you think everything is good as is which would be an incredibly privileged opinion not all of us can sign on to… also, everyone in here talking about the potential of older folks losing their homes, yet they still have an incredibly valuable asset which comes with state protections and ability to finance. the majority of folks harmed by these taxes or have become homeless in Seattle are or were renters, and weren’t harmed or became homeless at an old age. the hypothetical harm is a tired argument when there are folks actually going thru it who would benefit the most from these projects.

  • max34 April 5, 2024 (10:01 am)

    Cities are not permitted to create an income tax  by state law.  Yes we’re regressive in this regard.  This levy is the only way to increase funds to pay for infrastructure that everyone uses.  As noted, the current levy accounted for 30% of the current budget.   If this next levy fails, all of the proposed projects would then need to be reprioritized and many would be shifted to future dates, or not completed at all.  It’s pretty simple.  

    • Bill Wald April 6, 2024 (8:33 pm)

      Compare WA and OR.  The primary difference is we have a sales tax and OR has an income tax.  WA has a higher standard of living than OR. 

  • Bbron April 5, 2024 (2:16 pm)

    as a non-asset-owning renter who will be much, much more impacted by this tax than anyone that currently owns a home, i will be voting yes.

    • Bcham April 6, 2024 (7:23 pm)

      Can you explain why you think that being a non-asset-owning renter will impact you much more than a property owner?

      • K April 6, 2024 (8:43 pm)

        Because owners (the taxpayers) are eligible for discounts when they are seniors, or forbearance if they have financial hardship, while no such programs exist for renters.  Because most landlords are happy to jack up the rent $200/month to cover the increase in taxes while forgetting to mention their tax increase is actually $200/year.  Because renters will never benefit from the appreciation of the property.  Because renting is already more expensive than paying a mortgage.  Should I keep going?

  • WS Guy April 5, 2024 (4:39 pm)

    How come most of the core responsibilities of government – emergency response, parks, libraries, transportation, schools – each require a special levy?  I think these should be paid out of the general fund and then the pet social projects can try to get levy funding.

    So I am voting no.  Get the money from the general fund. 

    • K April 5, 2024 (5:51 pm)

      Tim Eyman came up with this cool legislation limiting how much revenue can go into the general fund, which is where we got the haphazard mishmash of levies to fund libraries, schools, transportation, and social services from.  Then people voted yes on that (probably some of the same people who are now complaining about the levy system).  Repeal that law and we will go back to having a general fund for things, but until then, General Fund is basically just enough to keep the lights on and cover salaries of city workers and everyone else gets a levy.

    • 98126res April 5, 2024 (7:13 pm)

      Agree 100%.  Thank you!!! 

    • 1994 April 5, 2024 (10:41 pm)

      Agreed. The city has got to live within a budget and stop asking citizens for pay raises via levy traps.

  • Admiral-2009 April 5, 2024 (5:10 pm)

    WS Guy  – yes it’s very frustrating.  And why are Seattle taxpayers continuing to pay a disproportionate share of the cost of regional challenges?  If people outside of Seattle paid their fair share we could pay far less!

  • 98126res April 5, 2024 (7:11 pm)

    Overtax the hardworking and waste money. For years in Seattle, so many things are out of whack that ought to be routine. We should be wary of any new levy.  Live within a budget. Stop the west seattle light rail, and use that money to fix existing roads and sidewalks.

  • Bill Wald April 6, 2024 (6:07 pm)

    Yes, STOP the West Seattle light rail!

  • AF12 April 7, 2024 (1:10 pm)

    Seattle needs to look at the city of Bellevue’s Traffic Impact Fee as an example/ model to improve its transportation infrastructure.  In addition, I don’t believe the city can use “Levy” to do maintenance on its existing infrastructure.  The levy should be only used for new capital transportation projects.

  • Millie April 7, 2024 (11:06 pm)

    Just listening to a Mayoral speech without the ability to actually review the proposal before commenting is really not useful.  A previous comment addressed the question of actually seeing/reviewing what was completed on the soon-to-expire levy proposal vs. the new Levy to Move Seattle proposals would actually be quite useful.  What projects and funds already encumbered in the expiring levy will be carried over and projects completed in 2024/25?  What happens without the old levy unencumbered funds?  Do they return to the general fund?   On another note:  property taxes – eligible senior citizens property tax is reduced only the State Education appropriation – electorate approved levy dollars are not reduced.  For transparency purposes, in the past, I was pro-state income tax, however, over the years I have learned taxes are rarely eliminated or reduced,  so NO State Income Tax or any increase to property evaluation levels beyond the current percentage.

  • Scarlett April 9, 2024 (7:13 am)

    Homeowner have reaped huge appreciations  in the FMV of their homes, a staggering increase of 40%   over pre-pandemic levels, on average.  Can you name me another asset that has produced a similar return over the same period of time of time?  Yes, it is an unrealized asset but so is any other unrealized asset – the bars of gold you might be hoarding – and dramatic declines in housing are rare and always bounce back.   The 90 year old living on fixed income, the so-called “house rich, cash poor?”  There are property tax discounts for seniors, the disabled and those under certain – very generous – income thresholds.   Have the decency and noblesse oblige to recognize your good fortune – regardless of how much you scrimped and saved   to acquire your home.  

  • Open-minded tax-payer April 11, 2024 (12:36 pm)

    A lot of folks here saying they’ll vote no on the new levy based on the performance of the last levy. Seems like throwing the baby out with the bath water, no?

    I’m all for public accountability, but it seems like not even trying to fund large long-term transportation upgrades is a huge missed opportunity.

    Also, projects from the last levy took place during a once in a century pandemic that shut down construction and contributed to massive supply chain disruption. just saying.

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