A proposal to raise county sales taxes by a hair to help prevent major cuts to public-safety departments appears dead after a crucial vote—county council member Kathy Lambert—vanished today. "We should not increase taxes on individuals and businesses until we have had the tough conversations about labor contract concessions, lowering other taxes to offset a criminal justice tax, looking for new business models to create efficiencies, and engaging our taxpayers in a discussion about what services they expect and how they want to pay for them," Lambert wrote in a statement.
She added that we can restructure business models, streamline procedures, and "create greater efficiencies." For those reasons she's voting no.
Uh, whatever. Our county's budget is fucked (so is the city's, which would also get money from this proposal). It's projected to run $60 million in the hole next year. We can make cuts, rewrite contracts, drive efficiencies, whatever you want to call them. But no amount of wrangling over union benefits or sharing photocopiers is going to compensate for law-enforcement, public-safety, and general-fund budgets that have been slashed for the last two years and face more cuts next year.
The measure, proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine, would raise sales tax in King County by 2/10ths of one percent to support the sheriff's office, prosecutor's office, fire departments, and public-safety departments in local cities. If passed by the council, the measure would proceed to voters on the August primary ballot. And if passed by voters, it would generate about $77 million to help pay for police officers, fire departments, and human service programs that save money in the long haul—which are in serious jeopardy. Most of the revenue would go to the county ($47 million), and the rest would go to cities ($30 million), including Seattle ($12 million).
The odd thing about this—to say nothing of how shitty it is that we might not have enough prosecutors for serious crimes— will be watching the conflict in those who, historically, love more cops and loathe more taxes. How will that conflict be reconciled? We can only fire so many county employees and cut so many other services before we're setting ourselves up to pay for the ensuing emergencies. Here's to hoping the county council sorts out its impasse in time to put this on the November ballot.