How will Seattle pay for new initiatives?

SEATTLE – Just a day after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s State of the City address, she gave us more details about new affordable housing initiatives.  But as we look at all of the mayor’s proposed efforts for our future, one question is raised: how is the city going to pay for it all?

“We will be on track to create 3,600 new affordable homes for low income families by 2022,” said Durkan. “Right now, none of the proposals we have are to raise taxes. In fact, we’re looking to Olympia to lower property taxes, particularly for seniors and low-income individuals."

mayor durkan

But it’s the rest of the population Paul Guppy is worried about.  He’s the Vice President of Research at non-profit think tank Washington Policy Center.  He says Seattle citizens are already getting taxed from every angle with more taxes to come.

“The state just increased the property tax on average 17 percent just to pay for schools. We just had two school levees that were just enacted, almost double what they were before. The mayor herself doubled the size of the families and education levy on the city. So, every couple of months there’s a new ask for taxes,” said Guppy.

He says city leaders should’ve learned from the controversial employee-head tax they later repealed.

“So I think the mayor is trying to strike a balance: How much can she get out of people financially without causing a public controversy?” said Guppy.

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed raising the Real Estate Excise Tax, something Durkan says could pay for more affordable housing.

“That would affect the sales of high-end properties, and then that money could be used to address the need for low income and middle-income housing,” said Durkan.

Guppy argues the mayor’s new initiatives could be paid for within the city’s $5.6 billion budget.

“They act as if they’re broke but when you look at their budget documents, they have more money than ever before,” said Guppy.

That’s why Guppy says he supports Durkan’s plans to expand the free Orca card program to students and people who are low income.

“That is something the city can easily afford. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars they have, to give an Orca card to students is a very easy thing,” said Guppy.

Durkan said in a press conference Wednesday that she wants to support people who have been displaced or people who are on the verge of being displaced because of Seattle’s rising cost of living.  She said she wants her program to help people, not put an extra financial burden on them.

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