Seattle mayor swaps property tax for county sales tax to fund homeless programs
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray ended his pursuit of a city property tax for homeless funding in favor of a county-wide tax.
On Monday, Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a 0.1 percent regional sales tax increase that they will try to pass in 2018.
The county-wide tax will allow Seattle and King County to raise, “millions more,” Murray said.
“We know homelessness is an emergency not contained in Seattle,” Murray said. “The crisis is not bound by artificial borders.”
Murray announced his original plan to raise more funding for homeless programs during his State of the City address in late February. His proposed property-tax levy would have raised $275 million over five years. Murray planned to use the money to provide rental subsidies to get people off the streets, as well as expanding shelters and treatment services.
The mayor was hoping to get the levy on the August ballot, which would have required more than 20,000 signatures.
The 0.1 percent sales tax increase is the second proposed by Constantine. Earlier this year he proposed a $469 million tax hike to raise money for art, science, and culture programs.
A 0.1 percent sales tax on every $10 spent would raise $67 million per year.
Homeless in King County
Washington homelessness rose by more than 7 percent last year, according to the Department of House and Urban Development. There were about 1,400 more people sleeping outside and in shelters. The increase is the second highest in the country, falling behind California, the Associated Press reported.
Homelessness has grown in the Seattle-King County area while it has reportedly dropped in Everett-Snohomish County, Tacoma-Pierce County, Spokane, Yakima, Vancouver-Clark County and the rest of Washington.
What Works Cities: Seattle’s data-driven homeless pilot
During last year’s homeless count, volunteers found the number of people living outside or in shelters increased by 19 percent over 2015. According to a KIRO Radio staff report, the number of people living in unsheltered homes in Seattle and King County increased from 3,772 in 2015 to about 4,500 in 2016.
Constantine said requests for help from the federal government have failed.
“Clearly, we are on our own,” Constantine said. “We must find the solutions that work for our cities, for our entire region, and we must find those solutions together.”