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.