This morning Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda unveiled her first round of edits to the Mayor’s 2024 budget proposal. She settled one fight for progressives—saving the payroll expense tax from Mayor Bruce Harrell’s trickery—but she kept the battle over controversial gunshot locator technology known as ShotSpotter wide open. 

Why Don’t You JumpSTART Using Tax Dollars Correctly???

Harrell’s proposed 2024 budget stuck close to the budget the council endorsed during the negotiations at the end of last year, but he pulled some funny business with JumpStart, the City’s payroll expense tax on Seattle’s biggest businesses. The council wrote legislation to specifically direct JumpStart’s revenue into affordable housing, Green New Deal policies, and economic development so it wouldn’t become a slush fund to balance the General Fund, which pays for all the other discretionary stuff. 

But Mayors love to make JumpStart a slush fund. As I previously reported, the council granted Harrell ways to flex some of that revenue. They allowed him to transfer $84 million to balance the General Fund, and they also gave him some flexibility to spend JumpStart dollars reserved for administering the tax on four pre-approved areas. Harrell took a little less money than the council allowed, but he asked the council to let him fund a few more things with the administrative dollars that Mosqueda purposely put on a short leash. 

Given that he proposed using that revenue to fund council priorities—child care worker bonuses, already-promised raises for human service workers, and the start-up cost for the social housing initiative to fulfill the City’s legal obligation—his ask looks like an attempt to permanently expand the approved uses of JumpStart. After all, big business has spent the last year lobbying against new taxes on the wealthy, arguing the City could use the existing payroll tax to balance the budget. 

Mosqueda’s budget denied Harrell’s request for additional flexibility and funded all the additional programs with the allowed $84 million transfer. She also brought back another $8 million the Mayor cut from JumpStart programs. 

Not Shootin’ Down ShotSpotter

Mosqueda’s edits now force conservatives to play offense if they want to please their big biz buddies by meddling with JumpStart, but she and her progressive buddies will stay on defense against ShotSpotter. 

The Mayor proposed $1 million in his 2023 budget to pay for the questionable surveillance system that the City has considered and rejected many times in the past. Last year, Mosqueda felt like the majority of the council did not support the tech, so she cut it in her edited 2023 package. Despite the rejection, Harrell’s back on his bullshit again this year, and Mosqueda’s letting him get away with it.

She’s not completely backing down. Mosqueda said she will support amendments to remove it. 

Good luck with that! In a budget briefing last week, Council Members Dan Strauss and Andrew Lewis made a point to stand up for ShotSpotter after being more or less quiet throughout the past briefings. As the election approaches, it seems as if they want to keep the Mayor and his deep-pocketed constituents happy. 

Strauss and Lewis usually flip between voting with the left and the right, so their early support could be good news for council conservatives. 

But we will see what other issues pop up when the council reviews Mosqueda’s package later today and then the members propose amendments next week.