Voters are rejecting a proposal to create a new King County sales tax to fund access to arts, science and heritage programs.
King County voters were showing little enthusiasm for a new tax to support arts, science and culture programs in Tuesday’s returns.
Proposition 1, which requested a 0.1 percent sales tax — or a penny for every $10 spent — was being rejected by 55 percent of voters, with 45 percent approving.
The measure had widespread support from about 350 arts organizations in the county that would benefit from an infusion of more than $67 million a year. But it was opposed by those who argued that the arts weren’t the highest priority in a region facing crises in homelessness, mental health services and affordable housing.
Yes: 45 percentNo: 55 percent
“The high cost, when added to the other tax increases people faced over the last three years — I think a lot of voters said enough is enough,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, who opposed the measure.
Supporters held out hope that later ballots would give them a win.
The arts tax was seen as another regressive tax amid a slew of new taxes, including those for Sound Transit expansion, state education funding and a proposal on the November ballot to double the size of the county’s Veterans and Human Services levy.
The proposal was estimated to cost about $30 a year for a family with an income of $80,000.
Proposition 1 also raised questions because the largest arts organizations in the county would get the bulk of the funding while about 300 smaller organizations would share about 28 percent.
Under the proposal, arts organizations would be required to provide free and low-cost admissions to arts, science and cultural programs and venues. Large organizations would have to spend 30 percent of their funding to support access by underserved communities and 20 percent of their funding to bring activities to suburban and rural parts of the counties.
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A public-school access program would fund classroom art activities and transportation to performances and exhibits.
Supporters, including science educator Bill Nye, former King County Executive Ron Sims and El Centro de la Raza Director Estela Ortega, argued that budget cuts to schools over the past decade had cut arts and science programs in half. Students without access to the arts miss the hands-on experiences that may inspire their curiosity and deepen their engagement with school, backers said.
They also said that many low-income children and families, as well as seniors and those with disabilities, can’t afford admission to institutions such as the Seattle Symphony and Pacific Science Center.
Opponents, who included Democratic County Council members Gossett and Dave Upthegrove as well as Republican Dino Rossi, argued that the tax would hit low-income and working-class families the hardest. They also said big arts organizations already enjoy the support of wealthy patrons and don’t need taxpayer money.
They pointed to existing support for the arts through the county’s 1-percent-for-public-art program and added that, starting in 2021, a lodging tax dedicated to the arts will provide an estimated $13 million annually.
Supporters of Prop. 1 raised about $1.7 million for the campaign. The biggest donors included the Woodland Park Zoo, which gave more than $106,000; the Seattle Theatre Group, $63,000; and the Seattle Opera, $46,412. There was no organized opposition.
King County executive
Metropolitan King County Executive Dow Constantine was receiving 74 percent of the vote in Tuesday-night returns. He will face Bill Hirt, an anti-Sound Transit activist. Constantine, a Democrat, raised almost $1.2 million for a contest against three candidates who reported no contributions and were all rated “not qualified” by the Municipal League of King County.