Morning Fizz

In Budget Fight with Mayor Murray, Homeless Advocates Want $2.3 Million from Rainy Day Fund: "It's Raining Now!" They Say

Nick Licata in last-minute budget battle to secure emergency money for the homeless.

By Josh Feit November 12, 2015

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 1. With the final city council vote on the budget coming up this Monday, homeless advocates are pushing for increased funding to get people off the street and into shelter beds—immediately. 

Mayor Ed Murray's budget proposal included about $1.4 million in additional homeless spending—with about $800,000 specifically going to shelter beds. The $1.4 million would be on top of $40 million the city currently invests annually in overall homelessness services, of which about $26.7 million goes to intervention services including beds. (You can read the mayor's budget proposal here; see page 155 for the details on homelessness spending.)

However, with an estimated 30 percent increase in homelessness since 2010 (there are an estimated 10,000 homeless people in King County with the majority living in Seattle), Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, is working closely with progressive council member (and budget chair) Nick Licata to add $2.3 million more to homeless spending.

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Where do Eisinger and Licata propose getting the extra money? Licata wants to pass a one time ordinance that would suspend the mandatory annual 0.5 percent contribution of general fund tax revenues to the city's rainy day fund; following the 0.5 percent rule, Murray has proposed adding $2.3 million to the city's rainy day fund.

Calling on the mayor to use the $2.3 million to fund immediate services for the homeless instead, Eisinger says: "Our point is that it's raining right now. Use that $2.3 million to bring people inside."

Licata, who's retiring this year, seconds her point: "The rainy day fund is for an emergency. Having people on the street is the definition of an emergency. Didn't the mayor just say there was an emergency?"

Indeed, separate from the budget, Murray declared a state of emergency this month, pledging a new $5 million in homeless services. However, a declaration of emergency gives the mayor full authority over the money, which means the council cannot set the priority of that emergency spending. And there are philosophical differences over how homeless dollars should be spent. For example, should money go to prevention like drug treatment and rent assistance—or should it go to immediate shelter? Licata says he's nervous that the mayor's emergency money isn't tilted enough toward immediate shelter. Licata is onto something. Only $900,000 (17 percent of the money) goes to immediate shelter.  

As for the budget debate over the rainy day fund: Licata points out, correctly, that the rainy day fund—at $42.5 million—is in good shape. The new contribution would make it the highest it's been in city history.

Licata needs five votes for his ordinance to temporarily suspend the rainy day fund contribution rule; currently he believes he has Mike O'Brien, Tom Rasmussen, and Kshama Sawant in his corner, giving him four total so far.

2. If you took yesterday off, be sure to check out Josh Kelety's in-depth report in yesterday's Fizz about Tim Eyman's successful initiative to resuscitate the two-thirds rule—and the Democrats' planned response.

3. Super wealthy liberal Nick Hanauer and union leader David Rolf—the unlikely Seattle pair who deserve much of the credit for jump starting the $15 minimum wage movement—have signed on to another trial balloon proposal to address contemporary economic realities. Specifically, the proposal deals with what's known as the "gig economy."

As an alternative to something like city council member Mike O'Brien's legally gray push to allow ride share drivers to unionize (something Rolf also supports), a group of labor, business, and policy leaders have signed on to a set of principles—focused on guaranteeing benefits for gig economy workers—that they believe should be in place regardless of the unionization push.

Ride share company Lyft has also signed on.

The benefits principles state:

Independent: Any worker should be able to access a certain basic set of protections as an individual regardless of where they source income opportunities.
Flexible and pro-rated: People are pulling together income from a variety of sources, so any vehicle should support contributions that can be pro-rated by units of money earned, jobs done, or time worked, covering new ways of micro-working across different employers or platforms.
Portable: A person should be able to take benefits and protections with them in and out of various work scenarios.
Universal: All workers should have access to a basic set of benefits regardless of employment status.
Supportive of innovation: Businesses should be empowered to explore and pilot safety net options regardless of the worker classification they utilize.

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