This morning, Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe announced five steps that the city will be taking in 2020 and 2021 to move closer to the “Vision Zero” goal of no traffic fatalities, which has stalled out in recent years.
This morning the City Council voted its proposed 2020 budget out of committee, and this afternoon the Council formally adopted it.
With the final version of the 2020 city budget up for final approval tomorrow, there are no last-minute surprises on the agenda.
In a marathon session this morning, the Council members got 95% of the way to the finish line on assembling the 2020 budget this morning.
This morning, Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw published her “revised balancing package,” the near-final version of the budget that the Council will take an initial vote on tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the penultimate budget discussion for this year’s budget deliberation cycle, in which the Council members will try to convince Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw to include their final round of proposed changes in her revised “balancing package.” Here’s a look at what’s still up for discussion.
After yesterday’s press conference on the city’s response to I-976, I had a brief interview with the Council’s Budget Committee chair, Sally Bagshaw, in which she discussed her approach to dealing with the aftermath of Initiative 976 as well as the endgame for the Council’s 2020 budget. Earlier this week, Bagshaw released her “initial balancing package,” and her colleagues are now preparing their proposals (aka “Form C’s”) for the last round of edits to the budget before it’s passed later this month.
For context on the interview below: Initiative 976 cuts a $60 car-tab fee imposed through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District that raises $24 million per year for increased transit services and programs, and a $20 car-tab fee imposed by the city that raises $8 million for basic transportation maintenance services such as pothole repair. The Transportation Benefit District currently has a $20 million reserve balance that the city can tap into in the short term while it fights I-976 in court and plans a longer-term response, but the missing $8 million for basic services is a tougher problem for the city — and for the Budget chair — to solve.
SCCI: Initiative 976 takes away $8 million in funding for basic transportation services through a $20 car-tab fee, and the Council needs to replace that. Where will the $8 million come from?
SB: Well, there’s one thing that we had raised a couple of years ago, and I think that’s still worth exploring, and that’s the unearned income tax. We think that that can raise a lot of money. My lawyers have told me, “just cool your jets on that, we’ve got to figure out what we’re doing with the income tax as proposed. But I think that this unearned income tax is something that would be perceived as being naturally progressive, that there’s money to be had, it’s constitutional based upon everything that we’ve learned, and I think that’s something that we can go after. I don’t like it, but you know, we’re looking at everything right now.
SCCI: State law allows Transportation Benefit Districts to impose Transportation Impact Fees. Is that something you would look at?
SB: Oh yeah, and we have actually, but it really brings in so little, and it has to be raised for future projects; we can’t go back. I would look at that, absolutely, but I don’t think that solves the problem. It’s a strategy.
SCCI: How much would the unearned income tax bring?
SB: I can’t remember. It depends. We could have a flat fee up to I believe 1%. I think the estimates were in the $40-50 million dollars, but I don’t want to give that to you and have you say “that’s the number.” I’ll have to go back and look at it again, it’s been a couple of years.
SCCI: When do you expect to have a proposal [to replace the $8 million in lost funding] — by next Wednesday?
SB: I’m not touching transportation. I’m going forward with my balanced budget.
SCCI: Do you expect other council members to come forward with proposals?
SB: No, I do not. And if we have to address it, it’ll be in January with the supplemental budget. That’s my plan. I’m really sticking with it, because otherwise they’ll start taking little peanut-butter parts and we’ll end up with nothing.
SCCI: More generally on the budget: what other proposals do you expect your colleagues to come back with in the next week?
SB: Actually, I’ve only talked to them about a few and there’s very little. There was a question about should we fund the Samaritan program. Council member Herbold was interested in taking money from the Streetcar to apply…
SCCI: to backfill I-976 cuts, or in general?
SB: … just generally speaking. But we don’t have that money yet. And we certainly cannot bond against it at this point. So I’m thinking that we’re not going to see major changes over this next week when we do the Form C’s.
SCCI: Do you feel the Navigation Team funding is secure?
SB: I am not backing away from that. And I believe I’ve got a majority of the Council agreeing with me.
SCCI: I saw the proviso on not allowing the city to relocate the Georgetown Tiny Home Village. Do you think the permitting will get sorted out around that? [editor’s note: the permit for the Georgetown Tiny Home Village expires in March 2020, which is why the Mayor’s Office proposed funding to relocate it]
SB: I do. And we do have to work out the permitting. But we’ve got a pretty good percentage of business community and neighbors saying they’re willing to allow this to stay there. It’s been well managed. So definitely we have to deal with the permitting, but I have faith that we can.
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This afternoon, Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes held a press conference to lay out their plans for how the City of Seattle is responding to the likely passage of Initiative 976.
This morning Budget Chair Sally Bagshaw published her initial balancing package, incorporating a portfolio of self-balancing changes to the Mayor’s proposed budget based on last week’s proposals by Council members that received consensus support.
Last’s night’s election results show that Initiative 976 will likely pass; it will blow a $35 million hole in the city budget that will need to get addressed in the next three weeks, making the initial balancing package very much a work in progress. That said, anything that didn’t make it in at this point is very unlikely to find its way in later as the Council struggles to find tens of millions of dollars.
With that context, here’s what made the cut so far.
With the “Form B” budget discussions now complete, Council member Sally Bagshaw, the budget chair, is hard at work assembling her initial “balancing package” of changes to the Mayor’s proposed budget. Her job is to cram as many of the Council’s wish-list items in, to match whatever additional revenues she can scrape together. The final piece of the puzzle is an updated projection from the City Budget Office on 2019 and 2020 revenues, which was delivered at the end of the week. Usually it delivers at least a few million dollars of extra revenues to spend; this year, not so much.