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Safeco Field funding compromise is big loss for tourism industry

Safeco Field. (File, Associated Press)

A King County Council committee has introduced legislation to appease both affordable housing advocates and the Mariners, but it’s a big loss for the local tourism industry.

Compare the executives’ original proposal with McDermott-Balducci proposal.

Under the compromise measure passed on a 5-4 vote on Wednesday, the hotel-motel tax that would go to affordable housing increased by 13 percent to more than $660 million. It cuts the money for Safeco Field maintenance down to $135 million. The Mariners had originally asked for $180 million.

The compromise, brokered by Councilmembers Joe McDermott and Claudia Balducci, secures 50 percent of projected future revenue — about $661 million — for affordable housing and homeless youth services. It’s an increase of over $165 million from the original proposal.

But to get to that number, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski said the proposed legislation guts the portion of the tax going to local tourism marketing agencies, which he says is key to the tax itself.

“What that is is feeding the goose that lays this golden egg,” Dembowski said. “It means bringing people here to fill the hotel rooms that generates this tax.”

Visit Seattle and other tourism groups are hoping to get more money added back in before a final vote from the full council expected later this month.

Statement from Visit Seattle:

Dembowski and Kohl-Welles said it well – they eviscerated tourism promotion, the golden goose. It’s so frustrating that tourism generates the tax revenue but it’s share of revenue is always by default. What’s left over – if anything. And, as bad as that is for our industry, it’s worse for our community and essential services in the future. Tourism doesn’t just happen. It’s a competitive business and our marketing budgets already lag behind key competitors. Very disappointing that they ran out of time for tourism, as they said. Tourism should have been factored into a fair balance.

KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott contributed to this story.

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