King County leadership should hear a message in the defeat of the ill-conceived, ill-timed Access for All levy.
THE rejection of King County’s Access for All levy in Tuesday’s election should send a message at a bullhorn-level volume to local elected officials.
King County voters don’t just want to throw money at their government. They want specific, pressing problems solved with smart, accountable plans and non-regressive tax sources.
Access for All, which appeared as Proposition 1 on the ballot, failed because it was a poorly conceived, ill-timed proposal to raise nearly a half-billion dollars over the next seven years from the already maxed-out sales tax. It disproportionately would have benefitted big, well-funded arts organizations like the Woodland Park Zoo, a fact that galled voters. It came as many King County taxpayers were just absorbing the shocks of a huge increase in property taxes to pay for education, and steep car-tab increases for Sound Transit.
And it came as the region faced more pressing needs than broader cultural access — homelessness, opioid addiction and the spikes in regional housing prices. Families are prioritizing helping a struggling loved one or saving for higher property taxes. Businesses are adapting to higher labor costs, as well as taxes.
But King County Executive Dow Constantine and a majority of the Metropolitan King County Council seemed to believe they were immune from such prioritization when they sent the arts levy to the ballot.
Proposition 1’s failure should tell local officials that taxpayers are discerning about what they want from government. King County taxpayers are more skeptical about taxes than Seattleites, but they passed the well-conceived, targeted investments in Best Starts for Kids levy and a needed upgrade in emergency-radio network technology in 2015.
King County has sent another levy to the ballot in November, this time a huge expansion of the existing housing, human services and veterans levy. County leadership needs to absorb the message from the defeat of the Access for All levy and ensure it makes a strong case to voters for community priorities.