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City Council advances $930 million Move Seattle levy with only minor tweaks

LevyMapFINAL-400x518-400x518Mayor Ed Murray’s proposed $930 million transportation levy made it through the City Council gauntlet relatively unscathed Tuesday. While council members added a handful of amendments to the Move Seattle plan (PDF), an amendment to slice the proposed levy by a third and replace it by other funding mechanisms failed to pass.

Council committee members unanimously advanced the bill to a full council vote on June 29th, teeing it up to appear on this year’s ballot. “A unanimous vote by the Council in committee sends a great signal to Seattle residents,” Murray said in a statement.

Murray rolled out his Move Seattle plan during a Capitol Hill event in March, calling for a roster of transportation projects to make Seattle’s streets safer and more efficient by 2024 and a property tax levy to pay for it.

Move Seattle identifies several Capitol Hill area projects to fund in the coming years, including street improvements to Madison Ave, 23rd Ave, and the Madison Bus Rapid Transit line. The plan also seeks to fund over 50 miles of new protected bike lanes and 60 miles of greenways in order to complete half of the city’s Bike Master Plan.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Council member Nick Licata introduced his plan to reduce the levy to $600 million and replace the lost funding with a mix of an increased commercial parking tax, an employee tax, transportation-related fees on development. The amendment failed on a 2-7 vote with Council member Kshama Sawant as the only other supporter.

Licata proposed an amendment that would’ve blocked funds from the levy to be used to “build or operate streetcars.” Licata said he feared leaving open the possibility of streetcar work could end up taking away from the intent of the plan.

Move Seattle doesn’t specifically fund the currently underfunded two stop extension to the First Hill Streetcar, but it could in the future. Council member Bruce Harrell, who opposed the amendment, said he supported giving future councils as much flexibility as possible.

Other council amendments included priority of funding for the Safe Routes to School initiative and bolstered accountability measures. Sawant, a candidate for the Capitol Hill-centered Council District 3, did not propose any amendments to Murray’s plan.

The cost to the typical taxpayer under Murray’s original plan was around $275 annually for the owner of a median valued home.

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11 thoughts on “City Council advances $930 million Move Seattle levy with only minor tweaks

  1. The stupid people that will probably vote for this have no idea the impact it will have on average homeowners. For us, we have a large home bought 20 years ago that despite its current high value costs us thousands of $$ to maintain and pay taxes. Our elderly neighbors, on the Hill since the 60’s are being priced out. This is an enormous package and the arrogance the city shows for the average resident is stunning. Potholes, cobblestones, old signs, dirty streets will still be here when this passes.

    • I’m reasonably intelligent (got a 97% on the GRE at least) and I’m voting for this!

      An extra $200/year will not materially impact my cost of living. However, having a complete network of protected bicycling streets and bus rapid transit will save me a hell of a lot of money in not having to use an Uber or Lyft just to get places on time.

      • I agree. I don’t see how $275/yr for a median priced home will have a negative impact on those who own. What is the median price, 500k? That’s $23/mo for them.

        Even if you are longtime homeowner who’s value is now at 1mm, is $40/mo in taxes going to force you out?

        I do wish more was being done for crumbling streets and agree big business should be footing some of that bill.

      • You guys are forgetting one minor detail. This “only” $273/yr comes after the last ballot measure added a couple of hundred for King County emergency system upgrade; and before that City of Seattle expansion to Metro for a couple of hundred per yr; and before that…..and before that…. EVERY SINGLE BALLOT, twice a year, has another levy on it, that “only” adds a couple of hundred $$ per year to the “average” property for every issue floated. Always dumped squarely onto homeowners. Everyone seems to think anyone who owns a home is rich. Wrong. What do retired people do, in the same house for years, living on fixed incomes? Their house may now be worth shitloads, but only if they sell it. To move where? (BTW, then that pushes avg home values up, which indirectly boosts your rents). My less-than-avg house’s taxes are up MORE than $1000 in the last 3 years. Now we have another $250-300 for this– oh and are there any OTHER levies floated on this same primary ballot? And then the Nov ballot after that–another levy (or 2)? Back to the trough again. And again. And again. Shit, man, we’re not teabaggers, but it gets ridiculous.

  2. I don’t think it’s fair that property owners should bear the entire burden for this levy. Those who rent should pay their fair share, because they also benefit from the transportation projects. Yes, I know that theoretically renters pay something when landlords pass on the cost of their increased property taxes, but I wonder how much of a rent increase is due to this. Many factors play into rent increases….it would be interesting to have some data showing what percentage of an increase is due to additional property taxes. I suspect it is a fairly small figure.

      • I am so looking forward to the improvements this levy will bring especially when the different links start to become connected into a mesh. However it would be wise to spread the tax base around a little instead of always lumping all the taxes onto the same base.

  3. Those who rent are indeed “paying our fair share”, as we do not build equity whilst paying (for many of us) a considerable amount of our income in rent. To truly pass the cost onto those who can afford it and should share the burden would entail adopting the plan of taxing the large companies. They enjoy the annuities of our city (which attract their”talent”) and have greatly contributed to the current state of deadlocked traffic, destruction of affordable housing, combined with development of over-priced, cheaply-made, buildings that blight the landscape of Seattle, and have driven out the longtime residents/artists/small businesses that gave made Seattle a desirable place to live in the first place.

  4. Where’s the money for traffic enforcement? That’s woefully lacking, and without enforcement, the infrastructure money spent on safety issues is largely wasted.

  5. AAARGH! Agree with the comment above — it’s always more and more levies on the ballot and they ALL usually pass. I guess it’s like paying a few hundred a month’s rent to Seattle and Washington for the privilege of living here (which admittedly I consider a great place to live)!

  6. Couldn’t agree more with some of the comments above. Yes, I am a homeowner and NO, my house is not worth $1M, However, in addition to my mortgage I pay over $600/month (2015) for the pleasure of living there. That $600/month is the result of the “property tax” levies (seawall, addt’l Metro buses, pre-school, parks, etc., etc., etc.). Remember all property levies are cumulative – so it is not just $245/yr. No, I don’t mind paying my fair share – that is the cost of living in a democracy, however, I believe all elected officials need to re-assess their incessant love of property tax levies. Perhaps, I would feel differently if something was actually accomplished. There is not a street in the City of Seattle that is not patched ( result of building development), potholes, and, now streets that are parking lots not just during rush hour but at any time. The proposed $930 million levy needs more thought.

    Please remember many of the amenities you enjoy were paid for by the very citizens that are now being priced out of their homes. Also, please remember not everyone can bike or walk to the grocers, doctors and so forth.

    Thank you!