The amount of money Proposition 1 demands through a sales-tax increase is not based on any projected needs or specific measures. Simply put, the measure is a money grab.

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VOTERS in King County are now deciding on Proposition 1. This ballot measure, titled Access for All, would generate about one-half billion dollars over seven years through an increase in the local retail sales tax. Funding from the tax would pay for additional access to art, science, and cultural programs and activities.

Cultural experiences can enrich our lives and can be out of reach for some people in the community. The problem with Prop. 1 is not its intent. The problem lies in the failure of the measure to fulfill the fundamentals of good public policy.

Prop. 1 is not the product of thoughtful consideration of how spending for increased cultural access is best accomplished based on a determination of funding-level needs and potential outcomes nor how it fits into the mix of public spending priorities, many of which are recognized as critical. Finally, the measure fails to create a method for distributing funds to nonprofits in a manner that is fair and efficient.

Another view

Calvin J. Watts, superintendent of the Kent School District, writes that Proposition 1 is essential to enhance access to arts, science outside the classroom:

The amount of money Prop. 1 demands through a sales-tax increase is not based on any projected needs or specific measures. Simply put, the measure is a money grab. It is based on nothing more than the intentions of its proponents to obtain every dollar allowed by law. There is nothing behind Prop. 1 that demonstrates why a half-billion-dollars is needed rather than one-quarter or one-tenth of that amount.

In addition to the lack of justification for a half-billion-dollar program, the measure is structured to spend money inefficiently and unfairly. Prop. 1 allocates a majority of the money to the largest regional nonprofit corporations in King County, including those with substantial financial support and lobbyists to solicit funding. One has to ask if the Seattle Symphony needs taxpayers’ money to increase access to its performances. Another organization, Woodland Park Zoo, is already subsidized by the taxpayers of Seattle and King County, having received over $170 million to date for operations and access.

Does Woodland Park Zoo really need even more of our taxpayer dollars when you consider all of the innovative and efficient smaller nonprofits with quality programs that are left out of this proposition?

A more thoughtful cultural-access proposal should be based on projected needs and outcomes, with a reduced revenue stream to leave room for other higher priority issues. Reduction of funding to the largest, wealthiest nonprofits should be built into the measure, which can be done by limiting their share of the funding pool or requiring substantial matching. This can be accomplished by careful planning, and as necessary, seeking changes to the enabling legislation.

We urge a no vote on Prop. 1, giving the proponents an opportunity to write a sensible and responsible cultural-access proposal.