The latest plan to reinvigorate stadium taxes that are supposed to expire breaks the same promise as all the other attempts. Let it go.
SAFECO Field taxes expiring this year should go away. Now. A promise is a promise, even if legislators with short memories many years after the fact want the money for other purposes.
After several failed attempts, state Sen. Scott White’s midnight-hour legislation would redirect existing car-rental and restaurant taxes currently paying for Safeco Field toward a list of worthy projects, including work-force housing, the arts and expansion of the Washington State Convention Center.
The Safeco Field legislation specifically said these taxes would end once bonds were paid off. Those bonds retire this year.
Then along comes White, with another attempt, including a public vote and an updated expiration date for the taxes — wink, wink — the end of 2015.
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White is a state senator from Seattle, or, more precisely, King County government, where he worked for several years. He is living proof that elected officials cannot abide by a pledge or fathom a juicy pot of gold going away.
King County Executive Dow Constantine and several other public officials want the taxes. Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett makes a passionate plea for the jobs and business benefits that would come from expanding the convention center and reducing down time between convention events.
If convention center expansion is the most important ballot idea — who knew? — why didn’t county officials ask Olympia for new taxing authority, perhaps with a public vote, instead of hijacking the promise on stadium taxes?
If arts funding is most important, same point. Why didn’t county officials seek authority, perhaps also asking voters if they support new taxes for the arts? County voters are very generous. Keep in mind, the county also wants higher license-tab fees to avoid reductions in bus service.
White’s bill sets up a campaign that says, “Hey, we’re not raising taxes, just continuing existing ones.”
This is a transparency issue. Campaigners will blow past the more truthful point: We are continuing taxes that otherwise would expire and breaking a promise. Short-term money for long-term cynicism.