Two Safeco Field taxes expired this month. After all the Sturm und Drang surrounding construction of the ballpark and the imposition of these taxes, it was a nice quiet ending. The promise to taxpayers from the beginning prevailed.
KING County taxpayers should pause and reflect on an event that transpired rather quietly this month: A pair of taxes supporting construction of Safeco Field ended — and did so with barely a whimper.
Seattle Mariners baseball fans and non-fans alike will recall the harrumphing and bad vibes that accompanied imposition of the 0.5 percent sales tax on restaurants, taverns and bars, and to a lesser degree, a 2 percent hike in rental-car taxes. These taxes began in 1996 and were part of a complicated financing package supporting construction of Safeco Field. After all the complaining, by the way, Safeco is a proven winner for the region.
But as tax revenues came in faster than anticipated and bonds were paid off earlier than expected by about five years, many a politician scrambled to grab the revenue for the next big project. Arts! An expansion of the Washington State Convention Center! Low-income housing! Goodies galore!
For once, and with considerable urging from this editorial page, more level heads prevailed. There was so much negative karma surrounding construction of the ballpark, the taxes had to end when the bonds were paid.
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Not only that, the public was promised in writing in the legislation that the taxes would go away once ballpark construction bonds were paid. For taxpayers hardly paying attention, that is exactly what transpired Oct. 1.
So many times, politicians break faith with taxpayers by refusing to let go of supposedly temporary taxes. This time, elected officials were forced to keep their hands off these two taxes and allow them to end. A promise is a promise, as the saying goes, and in this case, it was fulfilled.
Cynics take note: Two of the more high-profile ballpark taxes, promised to go away after the construction costs were covered, have run their course earlier than expected. Safeco Field is paid for. The public gets a needed break and doesn’t have to think about these taxes any longer.