City Council overcomes mayor’s veto on Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue plan

The Seattle City Council doubled down on its plans for how best to spend $6 million in Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue Monday, voting to ignore Mayor Jenny Durkan’s veto of the legislation.

Only interim Council member Abel Pacheco, downtown rep Sally Bagshaw, and North Seattle rep Debora Juarez sided with the mayor Monday.

CHS reported on the fight over funding scraps for health and food programs as the mayor attempted to focus the tax revenue on a smaller set of existing resources vs. creating new, often progressive programs.

The tax on sugary beverages was originally earmarked for creating new programs related to “healthy food and beverage access, birth-to-three services and kindergarten readiness, a public awareness campaign about sugary drinks, support for people actively living with obesity and diabetes, community-based programs to support good nutrition and physical activity and evaluation support for those programs.” With Monday’s veto-killing vote, the council’s plan for new programs can again try to move forward.

Meanwhile, Monday’s full City Council action also included approval of Seattle’s Green New Deal resolution. Durkan’s response to the approval was much friendlier than the sugary beverage tax situation. In a statement, the mayor applauded the vote and said she was “committed to expediting climate action” by issuing an Executive Order directing City departments to “evaluate how they can accelerate their action items under the City’s Climate Action Plan, and how Seattle can best meet the goals of the Green New Deal.” The final resolution can be found here.

Seattle’s $6M Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue tiff a fight over funding scraps for health and food programs

Monday’s City Council vote to dedicate funding from Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax to create new programs that promote healthy eating and social services sets up a battle with Mayor Jenny Durkan.

“By redirecting money for unknown new City of Seattle programs, the City Council’s plan eliminates funding for programs they previously approved that provide nutrition assistance, child care for struggling families, and nursing care for low-income pregnant women,” the mayor’s statement on the vote reads. “Despite voting for this funding last year, City Council’s plan now cuts funding committed to these programs without identifying the millions in other funds or cuts needed to continue these critical safety net services.” Continue reading

Library levy — at a bargain table price of only $43 per Seattleite per year — heads for August ballot

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With a final price tag of $219 million, the Seattle City Council has finalized the Seattle Library levy proposal for the August ballot.

CHS wrote here about the core seven-year property tax proposal that will replace an expiring levy and will provide about 25% of the system’s budget.

“From story time to summer learning programs to adult learning classes, our libraries advance equity, education and opportunity for all who call Seattle home,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement to CHS about the levy. “If we are going to build a city of the future, then we must build the libraries of the future, too. By renewing our shared investments in The Seattle Public Library, we can lift up the places where communities come together, open up doors to learning, and make Seattle a more equitable place to live.” Continue reading

With focus on equity and access, here’s the book on Seattle’s $200M+ library levy proposal

The Seattle City Council will hold a public hearing Thursday evening on Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan for hiking the Seattle Public Library levy up to over $213.3 million in property taxes over the next seven years.

The new proposal, which first needs to be approved — and possibly modified — by the City Council before before voters get to weigh in in early August, would replace the city’s 2012 levy of $123 million, which was fairly easily approved by voters and expires at the end of this year.

“While Seattle’s voters have historically supported our library system, I don’t take their support for granted,” said  Debora Juarez, who chairs the council’s Select Committee on the Library Levy.

The money under the mayor’s plan would increase access to all of the Seattle Public Library’s 26 branches, sustain and raise investments in technology, expand literature purchases, and continue maintenance. Continue reading

District holding informational meetings prior to February Seattle school levy renewal votes

Seattle Public Schools is holding public meetings to discuss two levies on the ballot in February’s special election. Thursday night brings the session closest to Capitol Hill at Montlake Elementary:

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) will host three community meetings in January to provide information and answer questions about two levies that Seattle voters will consider in a special
election on Feb. 12, 2019. The two levies are the Educational Programs and Operations Levy (EP&O) and the Building Excellence V Capital Levy (BEX V). If approved, the two levies will replace two expiring levies that voters previously approved in 2013 and 2016. Continue reading

Seattle mayor executive order: Help small businesses get relief from city taxes, bureaucracy

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s week of activity marking the end of her first year in office included a Friday executive order she says was shaped by her Small Business Advisory Council to help small businesses get relief from city taxes and fees and efforts to make it easier for entrepreneurs to navigate the city’s bureaucracy.

The executive order includes three elements:

  • Direct the City Budget Office to study ways to reduce the impact of taxes and fees on small businesses, explore a possible holiday from the B&O tax, and look for others ways to support small business employees; and, Continue reading

Tiny Broadway taco shop and its Guaymas family of restaurants comes up big as state drops $5.6M tax case

Attorney General Bob Ferguson and investigators from the Washington State Department of Revenue who started their search at a Broadway restaurant have huevos rancheros on their face after allegations of a $5.6 million tax fraud scheme at the Seattle chain of Tacos Guaymas fizzled into a poquito $750 fine.

“It is really a great example of the philosophical Occam’s razor,” Robert Chicoine, lawyer for Tacos Guaymas owner Salvador Sahagun said in a statement to CHS. “If there are two explanations for an occurrence, the one that requires the least speculation is usually the correct explanation.”

Ferguson’s office charged Sahagun earlier this year with six counts of first-degree theft and three counts of possessing and using sales suppression software in what the AG said was a multi-year scheme to pocket more than $5.6 million in sales tax from cash transactions. Continue reading

Seattle’s Sweetened Beverage Tax producing healthier than expected returns

A tax on sugary drinks sold in Seattle has produced more money than expected — and the missing Capitol Hill mystery pop machine had nothing to do with it. Now City Hall is sorting out how best to put the healthy revenue from unhealthy — without moderation! — beverages back into the community.

Friday, members of the Seattle City Council met with the Community Advisory Board of the Sweetened Beverage Tax to discuss why the tax exceeded revenue projections, what to do with the extra money, and to make recommendations for how to use the money in the 2018 and 2019 budgets.

“Communities of color and low-income people face the greatest disparities in terms of health and education outcome,” Christina Wong, co-chair of the board tells CHS. Continue reading

What’s next for Seattle’s head tax? Sawant pivoting on ‘Tax Amazon Movement’ after repeal

Even as they voted to repeal it, Seattle City Council members said Tuesday that an employee hours tax is probably the city’s best route forward to creating an alternative, non-regressive revenue stream to combat Seattle’s affordability crisis. The moves begin, now, to come up with a new, stronger tax plan.

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant, who has claimed the “Tax Amazon movement” as a follow-up to the successful $15 minimum wage fight, will be first out of the gates for shaping what comes next, saying Tuesday in council chambers that a “Tax Amazon Movement: Campaign Launch & Organizing Conference” is still happening. Continue reading

Good news, Amazon, Seattle won’t be taxing you after all — UPDATE: Repealed


UPDATE 2:10 PM: In a vote interrupted by a chanting crowd and District 3 representative Kshama Sawant’s refusal to voice her yay or nay despite threats from President Bruce Harrell that he would close council chambers if outbursts continued, the Seattle City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to repeal the city’s yet-to-be-implemented, unanimously-passed head tax on Seattle’s largest businesses.

As she seemingly goaded on her supporters in the council chambers, Sawant paused and let the chants swell before finally casting her vote against the repeal. Continue reading