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Murray scraps plan for Seattle homelessness levy

Though I-126 has been scrapped, the survey that shaped some of the ways in which its revenues would have been deployed provided new insights into homelessness in Seattle

Though I-126 has been scrapped, the survey that shaped some of the ways in which its revenues would have been deployed provided new insights into homelessness in Seattle

I-126, Seattle’s proposed $275 million homelessness levy, is not going to happen.

In one of the fastest political reversals so far in 2017, Mayor Ed Murray said that despite “passionate support,” a campaign to create a new Seattle property tax to support homelessness services has been put on ice just days after its launch.

Murray joined King County Executive Dow Constantine Monday to announce a proposed county ballot measure to boost the county sales tax to pay for new shelters, services, and housing.

Murray said Monday that through the early days of the campaign to gather signatures for I-126, he determined “acting regionally is the only credible response” to the city’s homelessness issues.

Constantine said we must “recognize that homeless is everywhere” and said regional officials have called on federal government for assistance “but that help did not come.”

“Clearly, we are on our own,” Constantine said.

I-126 would have added around 27 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value for property owners to raise around $55 million for improving access to shelter, services and housing, $25 million to increase access to mental and behavioral health services, $10 million for the housing innovation fund, and $185 million to help move people into housing, including subsidies. Subsidies were the top request from homeless people in a recent survey undertaken by the city.

Altogether, I-126 would have raised around $55 million for Seattle homelessness services. Murray said Monday a 0.1% sales tax in King County would raise about $67 million per year. The measure is being planned to come to voters in 2018. Murray faces a reelection battle in 2017.


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15 thoughts on “Murray scraps plan for Seattle homelessness levy

  1. What a hilarious about face. I do like spreading the tax pain around and addressing the problem as a regional issue. And this means Nick Hanauer will also have to pay the tax. But doesnt this just accentuate the ad hoc approach to homelessness currently exhibited by our political leaders?

  2. That levy was never going to happen, and Murray knew it, because we’ve been hit up one too many times. And none of the other cities around Seattle have done crap. It will be interesting to see if the rest of King County agrees to pitch in, or gives one gigantic one-finger salute. Something tells me it’ll be the latter.

  3. In today’s Seattle Times, Murray is quoted as saying that he is not making this change because he thinks the Seattle voters would reject the property tax levy, but for “other reasons.” I think that’s BS…..he clearly has seen the writing on the wall.

  4. While it’s good to see that we can’t just keep screwing the homeowner for every $, a sales tax rise is also hitting those with little money as much in most cases as those with a lot.

    It seems ironic that the far left leaning city can’t push for an income tax – Its becoming the only equitable way to do this.

  5. Considering Bezos being worth 75 billion now and considering he bears most of the blame for Seattle becoming unaffordable to live in why doesn’t Murray hit him up for Ed’s vision of homeless programs? And if I recall the fancy consultant did say Seattle could deal fully with homelessness on the existing budget.

    • Except for that he doesn’t bear most of the blame. There’s an entire Eastside of high-paying high-tech companies that employ lots of Seattle people, and together probably contribute as much or more to the high cost of living in Seattle as Amazon and Bezos. When was the last time you heard of *anything* to combat or address homelessness coming out of Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Bothell…? Almost never. It used to be everyone looked to Daddy Warbucks Gates to pay all of Seattle’s bills. Now everybody sticks their hand out to Bezos. Hell, let’s just hit up Soros, like they tell all the Trumpanzees on Faux News…? Our region needs to come up with real solutions to homelessness that don’t involve simplistic answers like hitting up local billionaires.

    • So Bezos makes $75 billion, thanks to our city, attracting tons of high income jobs, making it unaffordable to all but those making six figures (and arguably contributing some to the current homeless situation), but hey, let’s give the guy a pass.

      Naturally, he made that $75 billion by picking himself up by his own boot straps. Why should he give a dime back to the City that enabled him to be the second richest man in the world? That’s not the American way! He should horde his riches and be sure to kick down the social ladder, so those below him can’t climb it.

      Did I get that right Jim?

    • No, Truth, you didn’t get that right. You left out the part about all the other high-paying Seattle and Eastside tech companies that have thousands of high-earning people living on Capitol Hill and the rest of Seattle, that all contribute to the high cost of housing in Seattle; many of which aren’t doing squat to help– especially the Eastside ones and the Eastside cities in general. The whole region sees homelessness as a Seattle problem, not a regional one. Sticking our collective hand out to Bezos is not only naive– because it won’t work– it’s ultimately non-productive. It just enables the rest of the region to go on thinking it’s Seattle’s problem to solve, so it won’t impact their communities. And as long as (practically) only Seattle provides shelter and services for the homeless, they’re right. Which just makes it worse.

    • @Jim: The eastside tech people that lived in Seattle mostly stayed in the higher income areas that gave easy access to either SR-520 or I-5. They brought economic bonuses to the area. It wasn’t really a problem.

      Amazon has brought in a large amount of high income people in a short amount of time, which has strained the economic stability of the region. It wouldn’t be a problem if Amazon and Bezos contributed to the region like Microsoft and Gates did for Redmond, but Bezos is adamantly libertarian and has vocally stated his opposition to him or Amazon contributing anything to the region.

      Is he right? Maybe, it’s his money after all. Is it moral? Not in one bit. He’s made his billions squeezing the public amenities of our City and doesn’t see fit to contribute back in ANY way. That’s just the kind of selfishness that’s infected our country, to the detriment of the middle and lower classes.

      And I’ll disagree with you on the homelessness solution. Yes, it’s a regional problem and yes, it’s clear that the suburbs don’t have any intention of contributing and instead want to blame it on Seattle But Seattle, as the leader of this region, will need to step up and do something, because stubborn ignoring of the the problem has done nothing but make it worse. The only things that go away when you ignore them are your teeth and your spouse.

      If there’s funding issues, have it come from the state level. If a city is willing to do something, they get funding, if they don’t, they get nothing. That way, cities like Bellevue are contributing money, it potentially mitigates their homeless problem, but don’t have to build housing for homeless people, which they clearly don’t want to. It’s a win-win.

      Salt Lake City decided to step up and do something, despite their homelessness problem being regional and the suburbs unwilling to do anything. It’s worked out well and SLC is saving a lot of money not having to deal with the side effects of homelessness.

  6. 40 year resident here and 30 on Hill. Have travelled the world and few cities tolerate the behaviors we have abetted in our town. Few of the chronic homeless sleeping in our parks and storefronts have ever paid rent in Seattle and have not been displaced. Don’t blame Bezos.

    Blame them. They have Money for drugs, alcohol, smokes, dogs. They Steal bikes, panhandle, trash our town. They reject social norms or help.

    We are seeing the results of our apathy, enabling actions and denial of reality. If we built 5000 units of free housing we’d have 10,000 showing up for more, and they’d be trashed in the interim.

    Spend the money rousting every encampment 3 times a day including at 3 am and you will see people leave, accept shelter and treatment and the word get out that Seattle is no longer an enabling and welcoming place.

    Get a clue folks. Ask a homeless person their history of residence, work, and drivers and tell us what you learn.

    Not a dollar more for housing. Only law enforcement and treatment.