Sunday, September 12, 2010

Seattle Times: State budget likely to go from bad to much worse

As we enter the season of "hard choices", and the extremes of those that have resources and those who do not, decisions will be made in the Washington State Legislature. The state will be forced to choose between the businesses it will stay in.

The choices are even harder at the King County level. They have already made many of these choices, and the state will stop doing what the county wants in support of their needs. The City of Seattle is in the same position, with the state handing off to the county things it has already handed off to the city.

What we will likely, hopefully, see is the state shift the ability to do something about the the things the state will no longer do.
Last year the state passed an education funding bill that allowed the "haves" in the wealthier jurisdictions the ability to raise school levies. The "tax poor" jurisdictions were given some more state money, but not much.
Education is a state need, in the state constitution, that will get the state's energy.
Arts funding, tourist attractions, tax loopholes for pet projects are not in the state constitution.
One person's wants are another person's needs. In King County the business and local governments depend on tourism and business sectors that depend on amenities to attract and retail businesses that employ high wage earners, tax payers.
If the state is going to get out of the business of arts, tourism, and heritage infrastructure funding then I expect that they would pass the ability to keep those things going, including the on-going re-investment in that infrastructure to the county and the cities.
Just because the state does not want to be in a particular business support that does not mean every municipality in the state should have to get out of supporting that business.

To further this point, I think these businesses that benefit should carry the tax burden, that is, the future of tax levies to pay for things that are (more or less) tourist attractions should end. These kinds of choices are coming now, anyway. The nexus of general fund type revenue streams and what those revenues pay for will be drawn more directly. The same should be true of the non-general fund tax resources. For example, if hotels in King County (or Bellevue, or Seattle) carry a 2% sales tax on top of the existing state/county/city sales tax then that revenue should go toward funding things the perpetuates/benefits those businesses. But, the sales tax credit should stay with the state/county/city that is tasked with providing a superior social context that these businesses profit from by association.

"Should we get out of the business of those things that we never heard a word in four public meetings or on a website with thousands of hits?" she asked. "Should we be funding it?"

When asked for an example, Gregoire said, "As hard-hitting as this may sound to people I very much respect, we heard nothing about the arts. If you put that into print I bet I'll hear something."

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, isn't sold on the idea of cuts to the arts. "One of the things we know is the arts is a major jobs generator," he said. "There are 8,000 related art jobs in my legislative district alone. We have to be careful, if we're going to cut programs, that we don't create the anti-stimulus budget."

The state spends about $6 million every two years on the arts. While that might not sound like much money compared with the overall state budget, "We can't afford anything right now," Gregoire said. "Every time I get a call, I get 'Well, it will only cost X.' It's every call. I get this from legislators. I tell every single one of them ... I don't have X."

Local News | State budget likely to go from bad to much worse | Seattle Times Newspaper

Ed Murray is right, our economy in THIS area depends on arts funding. It also depends on Safeco Field being able to keep its parking fee as a means to fund capital maintenance. It also depends on a great variety of arts and entertainment to attract tourists, business, and in turn increase tax revenues, that in turn increase the general fund.
These "tourist taxes" are set to start expiring next year if the state does not take any action. To keep the taxes going takes a majority vote in the state legislation. Attempting to recreate these taxes later would take a 2/3 majority vote in the state legislature. Quite frankly, if the rest of the state does not see our business directly benefitting them then they are not likely going to be interested in supporting it on a purely ideological way.

The state, county, city are all asking where does money come from, where does it go to, and is it sustainable.

Hopefully this year State Senator Rodney Tom can mind his own business.


Peter said...

The link you posted in the last thread didnt work. Is it new news? Please dont tell me they are gonna try for the stadium taxes again next year for an arena. It clearly failed time and time again in the past. Why try something that dosent work? We need to try something new like user fees. How would the state look at a user fees request next year, and Would it be a politically hard thing to get? What if the republicans gain seats in the legislature? Would that make it easier or harder to get user fees?

Peter said...

Doesnt MOHAI hold some of the sonics history, and where would the history go if it is closed? I do remember reading matt griffin saying the ballmer group was still interested in feburary 2010. Nothing much could have changed, or they would show indiciation they werent interested anymore. How likely is it that if the state does give KC the right to use the tourist taxes, they will just use it on a key redo because it is cheaper? You did mention the tourism taxes in your letter to ballmer.

Mr Baker said...

There will be a try by the county to get those taxes, that is what I was told recently, and Ross Hunter even said so on his blog at the end of last session. If they do get that done then anybody interested in doing something with those taxes better speak up, even if later the legislation fails. If they do get those taxes then they will spend them on something. Showing up after the fact with your hand out is just not going to get it done.

My letter is simply asking if he is still interested, nothing more.
MOHAI is where the Sonics stuff is stored

Peter said...

What did the link you posted when you said "this meant the end of keyarena" say? I couldn`t get the link to work. I know griffin said the ballmer group was still interested last feburary, but when they quoted him, it seemed kinda vague. He didnt mention if they were still interested in keyarena or if they were interested in a new arena. He basically just said theres "nothing for us to do right now." That leads me to believe that some public funding will be required by them. If they werent interested anymore, do you think someone from the group would make an annoucement? If they are still interested and dow does what he said he would, as long as the county gets the taxes i think something arenawise will happen.

JAS said...

"What did the link you posted when you said 'this meant the end of keyarena' say? I couldn`t get the link to work."

Try this:

Peter said...

When i re-read the article from feburary that said ballmer was still interested, i noticed it said the matt griffin was the spokesman for the group. Wouldn`t it be better to contact him to see if the group is still interested, and how would i do that?i get what baker is saying on SC. With the team gone, we have to make it more about the benefits of getting an world class facility and less about the team. Would we have to get clear authority to build an arena if the county gets these taxes, or could a pretty blank bill be wri
tten that gives the county the ability to do what it wants? My big fear is that the state will start prescribing what to do with the money and put language in the bill banning the money from going to an arena. From what you hear, is there much support for an arena on the county council? I know dow said he`d get it done, and BR has said we (SOS)"have support from the county administration".

Peter said...

When you say "tourism", could that include an new arena? I know dow has talked about these taxes and i was very impressed the way dow talked bout them in that interview last fall with KJR. Could we include the arts in the entertainment facilities section of the PFD law? If they could do that and have the state dump the tourism taxes to the PFD account, that would be awesome. Did the final PFD law still include sports facilities?

Mr Baker said...

If the legislature passes the tax revenues to the county then I think our chances of helping to get an arena going are good.

This is do or die for 4Culture. The sports folks need to understand that there is a potential for a lot of money, Husky Stadium is out of the picture. So, supporting 4Culture should be mutually beneficial.

Peter said...

What happened to the new thread you had up? It disappeared. I read it before it went down though. I was kinda disappointed dow said "why me". Why do you think he said that? It makes me think he maybe doesnt have all the commitment he said he did. Were you part of the group that met with dow? What did he say we could do?

Mr Baker said...

Every politician want to know why does a given group ask them for help, and what kind of help dies that group need.

The answer is that "we" need political leadership that is not ever going to come from the city, and the kind of help he can give us is identifying a solution (legislation) and how we can work with others to be successful.

I have some editing to do to that story so I am not over committing Dow, or anybody else, to do anything.
He was interested in what we had to say, he us interested in meeting again, what real meaning can be drawn from that needs some clarification.
Expect to see a better written story soon.

Peter said...

Did dow mention nicastro`s effort at all? I still havent got a response from drago about that.did he mention talking to ballmer recently? At least dow`s willing to listen to us. Thats more than nickels ever did. I know he has alot on his plate now, and meeting w/ SOS is a good gesture given all the responsibilities he has now. The only thing the group can do now is meet with him again, and hopefully come up with a plan of action.

Mr Baker said...

I have never been part of SOS, and according to Brian, there effectively isn't an SOS organization anymore.

There isn't a Sonics to Save.

I am trying to be more proactive early, those guys were kind enough to invite me to their meeting. I hope I have provided good input that moves things forward.

Peter said...

So it sounds to me like getting a team back will be an long term process. Everyone keeps mentioning 2014.i just dont want us to be like LA and the NFL, 15 years and still no team. It just seems like we`ve been getting so much info and speculation, i dont know what to believe. There just needs to be a reason for hope, a sign of life. I`m sure it`s there, behind the scenes, but it seems like we`ve been hearing about behind the scenes efforts for years now.

Mr Baker said...

The "behind the scenes" method has not been successful, in my view.
I lean toward openness, others lean toward keeping things quiet until they have a solution to deliver.
That might explain why I posted a story, and pulled it back down an hour later.
We will find a happy medium as we move forward. That will depend on trust.

Peter said...

If the county does get control of the tourist taxes, how likely is it that the PFD would get them? If we count the arts as entertainment facilities, it would probably be easier to pass, i mean, more people would be lobbying for the bill. There could be complications though. How would they figure out how the money is divided up between Sports and the arts? It just seems like we could see a tug of war that could be fatal to an effort.

Mr Baker said...

The interested parties need to understand that with Husky Stadium out of the way there is a very large amount of money at stake, there should be enough money to support many things. Understanding about what your part is worth at the beginning should keep people focused on the goal of passing a bill.

The county has the power to create a new PFD if they had to, they could deal directly with a private group, they could do many things. But nothing happens without a bill getting passed.

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