After the Mayor’s big budget reveal on Monday, the council will spend the rest of the week digesting the nearly 800-page document that doles out the city’s $1.6 billion general fund for the upcoming year.
Before the council kicked off budget season this morning, Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda told The Stranger she’s excited to start shaping the budget. Mosqueda also made clear that the mayor’s proposal is just that: a proposal.
“The executive only gives us her suggested proposed budget,” Mosqueda said. “The legislative branch really gets the chance to rewrite the budget in alignment with the values of community and council members and to finalize a budget over the next two months that meets those goals.”
“And to make sure that the revenue streams align with the intended use as well,” she added.
The mayor has proposed a $148 million raid of funds generated by the JumpStart payroll tax, setting up yet another battle over the money the council specifically earmarked for affordable housing, Green New Deal investments, and the Equitable Development Initiative.
The council passed Mosqueda’s JumpStart tax last year, and the Mayor has tried to wrestle away more control over it ever since. According to SCC Insight’s read, Durkan’s 2022 budget proposal uses one-time federal money to pay for some of the stuff the JumpStart tax is supposed to pay for, then uses JumpStart money to pay for other stuff, and then adds a proposal to allow the next mayor to do whatever he or she wants with the funds. That mostly sucks because it sets up a tricky political situation for the next Mayor/council combo, who will need to figure out how to replace the one-time federal funds without making it look like a cut.
Mosqueda said “it was disheartening to see the mayor's proposed budget not only use those funds in ways that do not align 100% with what the JumpStart investment was for, but then to also propose legislation” that essentially allows future mayors to use JumpStart funds however they’d like.
“I think it's going to raise a lot of questions for council members and members of the public," she added, "because the spend plan categories were carefully crafted, and to see in essence a footnote trail with the budget that indefinitely allows for unlimited use of the payroll spend plan from JumpStart is very much a departure from what I think council members expected.”
Wednesday morning, the public had much to say about Durkan’s proposed budget, but no one mentioned JumpStart.
Supporters of the Solidarity Budget, a community proposal endorsed by 80 organizations, dominated the comment period. Thirteen people signed up to chat with the council this morning, and nearly all spoke in favor of the community plan.
“As there's briefings this week on the mayor's proposed budget, we wanted to make sure that y'all also got briefed on the Solidarity Budget,” said the first public commenter, Jess Wallach, an organizer from local environmental group Seattle 350. “And I want to begin by recognizing and appreciating all the work that budget office and department staff have done leading up to today. It's been months putting together a budget proposal with a lot of attention to detail and hard work. I can imagine this because we've been doing the same.”
Organizers unveiled the Solidarity Budget two days ahead of the mayor’s proposal. The two are very different documents. For one, the Solidarity Budget does not want to give the Seattle Police Department a $2.4 million refund — they are still holding out for that 50% cut.
Mosqueda said “the biggest thing for council right now is going to be making sure that we are balancing investments and community safety alternatives to our traditional armed-officer response with policing, as we have talked about in the past.”
Mosqueda's “balancing act” rhetoric chimes with Durkan’s call for the council not to buy into “false choices” between funding the police and funding alternatives to the police, but Mosqueda said she plans to focus on bringing programs to scale so they can replace armed officers in some areas.
For proponents of the Solidarity Budget, however, today was not about JumpStart or the cops. The public commenters briefed the council on their budget’s proposed approach to environmental issues.
The Solidarity Budget’s key recommendations include an annual $85 million for three years to transition all low-income homes in our city to clean energy, $100,000 to create a roadmap for community climate resilience hubs in every Seattle neighborhood, and $280,000 for Indigenous-led projects to promote clean energy, sustainability and cultural preservation.
Two public commenters at the tail end came on to talk about safety downtown (one was literally named Karen). It sort of felt like that moment when someone breaks the chain during one of those everyone-pays-for-the-person-behind-them schemes at Starbucks.
This will likely be the first of many briefings from the Solidarity Budget during public comment.
“We have looked to the Solidarity Budget for recommendations and input,” Mosqueda said. “This is a community-driven process that aligns various priorities, and as always we will continue to see how those priorities are reflected in the mayor's proposed budget and where there's misalignment.”