This Washington

Press Release Fact Check

By Josh Feit May 25, 2011

The Washington State Senate Democrats put out a press release this morning hyping a bill that dedicates a two percent hotel/motel tax to arts and workforce housing funding. What the press release never mentions, however, is Qwest Field.

And for a good reason. The bill is a last-minute version of an earlier failed bill that would have extended a pair of stadium taxes to fund the arts. That bill flamed out earlier this session. The stadium taxes are poisonous politically because they're connected to the controversy in the 1990s when the legislature and King County authorized spending on Safeco Field over the wishes of the public, and shortly thereafter held a controversial statewide vote to build Qwest.

The press release does gleefully mention the Kingdome, though, noting that the legislation will "redirect King County's hotel/motel tax from debt service on the Kingdome stadium—which will be paid off later this year" to pay for the arts. The obvious intent here is to distance the current bill from stadium debt.

But hold on. The hotel/motel tax doesn't actually start paying for arts and housing until 2021. What it does between now and then is pay off the Kingdome; then, starting in 2016, it starts paying for Qwest.

Another footnote on the bill: The original bill funded an expansion of the Seattle Convention Center. The new bill does not. King County Executive Dow Constantine led the lobbying effort for a renovated convention center, which he argued would create immediate construction jobs and amp tourism dollars in the future when a bigger center could compete nationally for convention business.
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