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Poor Community Dialogue and ‘Lightning Speed’ Public Process: Councilmember Dunn Votes ‘No’ on New Sales Tax

Summary

After the King County Council passed a 0.1% sales tax to fund housing for homeless individuals on Tuesday, Councilmember Reagan Dunn responded with the following statement.

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council on Tuesday voted to enact a 0.1% sales tax increase to fund permanent housing for the chronically homeless via an emergency ordinance that will allow the County to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the same homeless policies the City of Seattle has already invested millions in.

The measure was approved by a vote of 8-1, with Councilmember Reagan Dunn casting the lone vote against it. 

“The lack of adequate public process for this tax increase has created uncertainties for our suburban cities who were left behind by the speed of King County’s action at a time they’re already facing economic uncertainties due to the COVID-19 response,” Dunn said.  

A statewide measure, HB 1590, grants local jurisdictions the authority to impose by councilmanic vote a 0.1% sales tax to fund affordable housing without ever giving the voters a chance to weigh in as most tax increases do.

While this funding could be directed toward an array of housing programs, the County’s proposal primarily directs the tax revenue to be used for “permanent housing for the chronically homeless” — a strategy that hasn’t had buy-in from many cities. 

Further, late last year, King County and representation from cities created the first ever County-wide Regional Homeless Governance Authority. This group of elected leaders, experts and lived experience representatives have not yet been asked to weigh in on this new tax.

The Council has only had this tax before it since September 23, when the 2021-22 King County budget proposal was first transmitted. 

“This lightning speed process and lack of a collaborative approach is a sore spot for cities,” Dunn said. “King County cities and towns continue to advocate for a seat at the table when decisions are being made that affect their residents, but a countywide sales tax would make it very easy for the County to circumvent cities’ priorities while forcing taxpayers to pay for these Seattle-centric approaches to solving homelessness. These are policies that aren’t working. Throwing more money at the problem, without a serious rethinking of our strategies and performance measures, may not make the problem of homelessness in King County much better, I fear.”

Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Email:
council@kingcounty.gov