Some thoughts on the King County (WA) Ballot measure, Proposition 1, sales tax for "cultural access"

re is the text of the ballot measure on the primary ballot in King County, Washington, that includes Seattle and surrounding suburbs.

King County
Proposition No. 1
Sales Tax for Cultural Access Program

The King County Council passed Ordinance No. 18513 to establish and fund a cultural access program. The program would expand access to arts, science, and heritage programming throughout King County. The program would include cultural education in schools and transportation to cultural venues for public school students. The program would also provide funding for cultural organizations to expand programming, including to serve diverse and underserved populations. The cultural access program, includingadministrative costs, would be funded by a county sales tax increase of one-tenth of one percent for seven years beginning January 1, 2018.  [Emphasis mine]

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Last night, and at a concert last week, the Marketing Manager of the Seattle Chamber Music Festival urged us in the audience to vote in favor of this addition to the Sales Tax in King County.  Being a Cultural Organization, the Seattle Chamber Music Society would get some funding from the sales taxes.  Vote King County a higher sales tax, so we may have some of those funds.

Here are some of my thoughts and questions about this ballot measure.

  1.  King County is the most liberal political unit in the state of Washington.  The residents of King County, and Seattle, rarely saw a tax they didn’t like.  The city of Seattle has numerous times voted to tax its property owners additionally for schools, the homeless, family programs, transportation,  ad infinitum.
  2. The liberals who live in King County are always bemoaning the “regressive” taxation scheme in Washington State, whose Constitution forbids an income tax, and its reliance on sales taxes, which disproportionately fall on the “poor”, “low-income” portion of the population. {An aside–the Seattle City Council has just voted unanimously to institute an income tax on its wealthiest citizens, knowing full well that this is illegal and will be held up by lawsuits from day one}
  3. The Sales Tax in Seattle has already broken the 10% level, and is approaching 10% everywhere else.
  4. If this measure passes, everyone in King County will be paying an extra $.01 in sales taxes on everything they buy.  Yes, those poor, underserved community members will also be paying that extra sales tax on everything they buy, in order that they may have “improved access”, whatever that means, to “cultural programs”.  There is no way to exempt the low-income from paying this additional sales tax.
  5. The money collected from this additional regressive sales tax, will cover “administrative costs”, as stated in the ballot measure above.  Did anyone opine on what percentage of the money collected will go for administration?  Administration includes the costs of collecting the money, allocating it to a special account, deciding which organizations will receive money, and deciding how much will go to each organization.  Employees will have to be hired (and paid, and provided with benefits including pension), to develop an application form and procedure, and then to evaluate the applications as they are received, to decide how the money collected will be spent.
  6. What happens when the cost of living in King County rises by the amount of this additional sales tax on everything you buy?  Might the increase in the cost of a new car discourage someone from buying a new car in King County?  The surrounding counties of Pierce, Snohomish, and Kittitas will not be raising their sales taxes, so a certain amount of purchases of expensive items might go to another county.  Those low-income residents of King County might have to defer purchases into the future, or not buy at all, since their income would not rise to cover the additional expense.  It has been shown that those who advocate for higher taxes rarely take into account the behavior changes that happen when someone experiences an increase in their cost of living.
  7. Who decides which cultural and heritage organizations will receive money from these new “access” funds?  Do faceless bureaucrats in Seattle decide how to allocate this money?  Do they solicit input from the arts community?  Do they give money to organizations whom they know and patronize themselves?  Do they favor the “charity of the month”, like the Gay Pride organization, or the Seattle Symphony?  Do they give money to the ACT Theater, which promotes liberal causes and puts on productions which take gratuitous slaps at a president they don’t like?  Will they be funding the “Resistance”?  Will they solicit input from ALL the people who will be paying higher taxes for the next seven years?
  8. What do they actually mean by “Access”?  Is there an implication that access is now denied to some of the “underserved” population?  Do they know who the underserved are?  How do they determine who is underserved?  And exactly who makes that determination?  What do they mean by “diverse”?  People of color, people of oppressed ethnic groups, people of sexual minorities?

My guess is that those promoting this new tax have not given any consideration to many of my points above, especially the one about our regressive tax system here in Washington State.  They think that everyone will just happily pay more for everything they buy, knowing that those underserved, low-income populations will benefit from their largesse.  It will make the relatively wealthy residents of Seattle feel good, knowing that they are helping those underserved populations get a dose of “culture” that they are being denied now.  Starting in the late 1960s, cultural programs in the Seattle Public Schools were reduced, in order to pay for busing students across the city for desegregation.  These days, the Seattle Public Schools have all sorts of programs devoted to sex-education, environmental education, and “white-privilege” education; and their dropout rates are much higher than they were in the 1960s.  Also, these days 40% of the schools budgets go for administration, eating up funds that could be spent on art and music in the schools.

It will be interesting to see how the residents of King County vote on this new sales tax proposal.  I do not live in King County, so I don’t get to vote on this measure.  But if it passes, I will do my best to spend as little as possible in King County.  See, people DO change their behavior in response to economic incentives!

Comments

Autumn Cote Added Jul 16, 2017 - 10:23pm
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RushBabe49 Added Jul 17, 2017 - 1:37am
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