This Washington

McGinn Wants to Revisit Stadium Tax Loophole

By Erica C. Barnett October 25, 2011

At a press briefing this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn said he would  support asking state legislators to revisit an amendment giving Safeco Field the authority to override the city's parking tax---in effect, giving the stadium the right to impose a 10 percent commercial parking tax at its parking lot and prohibiting the city from continuing to charge its own 12.5 percent parking tax once the stadium does so, a story PubliCola first reported last month.

The amendment was part of legislation redirecting the unpopular stadium taxes toward arts and housing starting in 2021; initially, the bill would have paid to expand the downtown Seattle convention center, but that part of the bill was gutted. The parking-tax exemption is expected to cost the city as much as $300,000, according to the city budget office.

"I would love to get that language changed," McGinn said this morning.

However, state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle), who co-sponsored the amendment along with the late Sen. Scott White, who died of a sudden heart attack last weekend, says changing the language isn't as simple as just excising the amendment from the legislation. The amendment, he says, was added as part of negotiations between Seattle legislators who wanted money for the arts and housing and legislators outside Seattle "who didn't like the arts and who didn't want to give anything to King County. That will be a problem in moving forward with a fix."

"I think, to some extent, it's going to be hard to unring the bell," Murray says.

McGinn says he's confident that the city has "skillful legislators, so we'd ask them to exercise their skill" in getting the stadium language changed.

Murray and White expressed disappointment earlier this month that city officials seemed unfamiliar with the language in the legislation, which the city's lobbyists testified in favor of. And Murray says his main priorities next session will be "trying to get a revenue package and a marriage [equality] bill out of the senate," not amending the stadium legislation.
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