This morning’s Budget Committee meeting — chair Lick Licata’s last — was largely routine, other than one speech by Council member Kshama Sawant.
Meeting details (including legislation text and budget draft)
On the agenda for today: final amendments to the budget proposal, followed by approval to forward it to the full Council for its approval (a largely symbolic gesture, since all nine Council members sit on the budget committee). The committee cranked through all of the amendments without a single dissent. In fact, the only “no” vote of the day came from Sawant on the final vote to approve the 2016 budget proposal.
Before voting “no” she delivered an impassioned speech. She explained that she viewed the original budget delivered by Mayor Ed Murray as a “business as usual” budget, and while she supported the changes the Council enacted to move more resources into progressive causes, she noted that by her calculations the changes they made totaled less than 2% of the entire budget and thus it still remained as much “business as usual” as the original budget — and that was the reason she would be voting against it (while having no illusions that it wouldn’t get passed anyway). She listed off the changes she would have liked to see: taxing the rich, taxing business, relieving the tax burden on workers (rightfully pointing out that the state’s tax system is one of the most regressive in the nation), dramatically increased funding for mass transit for addressing the homeless crisis.
As expected, the budget passed 8-1, and the committee suspended the normal rules requiring legislation to wait a week before coming to the full Council so that it could be approved this afternoon.
As this was Licata’s last budget committee meeting (and almost the end of his term on the Council, he took time at the end to thank his committee staff and the Council’s central staff for all the work they do, especially to shepherd the budget development through. He did note his concern that the budget development process at the Council level (after the Mayor submits a draft) is far too short and in his view does not allow for proper consideration of difficult issues.
After the meeting, Licata’s office issued a statement on the city budget, noting the dramatic increase in funding for human services as a response to the federal government’s equally dramatic cutbacks.