The C is for Crank

Clarification: City Could Only Access One-Third of Potential Sales Tax

By Erica C. Barnett July 7, 2010

Last week, we reported that the city could potentially put a sales-tax increase of as much as 0.3 percent on the ballot if the county doesn't manage to pass a countywide 0.3-percent increase in November. County council staffers now say they were wrong—the potential citywide sales-tax increase is only 0.1 percent.

In any case, as I said on KUOW's "The Conversation" yesterday, I think the most likely scenario is this: The county council agrees, by a 5-4 vote (five Dems vs. four Republicans) to put a 0.2 percent tax increase on the ballot. Meanwhile, they fail to pass a separate 0.1-percent increase to pay for a new juvenile justice facility, which one council Democrat, Larry Phillips, has said he will probably oppose.

Next, county law-enforcement officials like Sheriff Sue Rahr run a high-pitched fear campaign focusing on scary sound bites (no more enforcement of property crimes, 238 fewer sheriff's deputies, no investigation of cold murder cases, no drug investigations, slower 911 call responses, etc.). I won't hazard a prediction about whether such a campaign would be effective, but it's hard to see who would run a campaign against public safety, which tends to be the last government service people want to cut.

If it does pass, that leaves 0.1 percent that could potentially go to the city. City officials were reluctant to say definitively whether they would go after that money, but the two leaders of the city's public safety committee seemed intrigued by the possibility. ("That's a very viable option," committee chair Tim Burgess told me.) The city would get 85 percent of the proceeds from the tax, with the rest going to the county. One-third of the city's portion of the tax, which would generate around $6 million a year, would have to be dedicated to public safety.
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