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County Council Democrat Questions Sales-Tax Increase Proposed by Democrats

By Erica C. Barnett June 25, 2010



THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH COMMENTS FROM KING COUNTY COUNCIL MEMBER LARRY PHILLIPS.

Two new proposals at the King County Council---one being pushed by Republicans, the other by Democrats---would raise sales taxes countywide to pay for public safety and fire protection. The council's budget committee will discuss both measures on Tuesday, along with a sales tax increase to fund the juvenile justice center that we wrote about this morning.

The Democrats' proposal is identical to an earlier measure that would have raised the sales tax 0.2 percent and split the proceeds 60-40 between cities and the county before sunsetting in three years. That proposal lost with five Democrats voting yes. Two major differences this time around: First, whereas the earlier measure would have required six votes to make it onto the August ballot, as long as the council passes this one by July 26 it will only need five votes to pass.

Second, the new proposal would be paired with a separate tax increase to pay for a new juvenile justice facility to replace the crumbling juvenile justice center on 12th Ave. King County Council member Larry Phillips, a Democrat who initially expressed reservations about the smaller sales tax increase but later said he supported it, now says he's not sure he can stomach a 0.3 percent increase.

"We had agreed that the limit on a sales tax request would be two-tenths, and now all of a sudden it's the 11th hour, the 59th minute, and this three-tenths proposal emerges," Phillips says. "It was hard enough for me to get there on two-tenths."

The Republicans' proposal seems unlikely to pass. It's identical to a proposal the council already rejected 5-4 along party lines, which would raise sales taxes 0.2 percent but offset the increase with a decrease in property taxes.
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