SEATTLE – Just one week into his brief time as mayor of Seattle, Tim Burgess tackled a big task Monday.
Burgess announced Seattle’s budget for 2018, and highlighted portions of the $5.6 billion budget he believes are important for the city.
Burgess became mayor last week after Ed Murray resigned over sexual abuse allegations. Much of the budget was expected, but some details were not.
One piece of the budget Burgess is personally pushing for is a city retirement savings program. The legislation would allow every worker in Seattle to get a retirement savings account through their employer.
“Employers without any kind of employment program will enroll their workers - workers can opt out if they wish," Burgess said. "Workers can determine how much they want deposited on their personal IRA.
Burgess says 40 percent of employees in Seattle do not have an IRA through their employer.
If the measure passes, it could help 200,000 people in Seattle. Last February, Congress passed legislation making a city run retirement savings program like the one Burgess is pushing for illegal.
But Burgess says he still sees a path for the initiative to move forward.
He’s proposing the use of $200,000 to conduct a market feasibility study of the retirement program.
Burgess also wants to spend $2 million more to fight homelessness next year than the city did this year, bringing the investment to $63 million in 2018.
“To add another outreach team specifically focused on people living in vehicles, plus a homeless outreach position at Seattle public libraries,” Burgess said.
In 2017 the city spent about $61 million to fight homelessness, and in 2016 it was nearly $54 million.
In addition to homelessness, Burgess also voiced support for sexual abuse victims on the heels of Murray’s resignation.
“I want you to know that your city government stands with you, we will support you,” Burgess said.
Burgess says $500,000 more in 2018’s budget is slated for sexual abuse victims. Low income people will also benefit the most from the city’s sugary drink tax going into effect January 2018.
The tax is expected to generate $14 million. Much of the funds are allocated for college scholarships, early learning and giving people more access to fresh produce.
“It means more of our low-income neighbors will be able to effectively double their buying power at farmers market and other venues that offer fresh organic produce,” Burgess said.