Proposition 1, also known as “Access for All,” which would have provided tickets and education services for students across King County, has failed by a slim margin.

Share story

King County Proposition 1, a sales tax also known as “Access for All” — which would have provided arts, culture, heritage and science organizations with funds to increase access for middle-and lower-income families — has failed.

After trailing by 10 percentage points in last Tuesday’s vote count, the measure steadily gained ground, but not enough to pass.


Monday afternoon’s count included a total of 25,000 votes, 15,000 of them from Seattle, said Elections spokeswoman Kendall LeVan Hodson. “And that’s pretty much what’s left,” she said. “There are about 3,700 signature challenges countywide that have to be resolved, but that’s about it.”

Those aren’t enough to flip the vote, even if every one of those 3,700 voters approved the measure. As of Monday afternoon, the vote stood at nearly 49 percent in favor, with a little more than 51 percent opposed. The difference was about 9,000 votes: 200,754 for and 209,649 against. (King County has 1,295,691 registered voters.)

“We knew it was going to be agonizingly close,” said Prop. 1 communications manager Dujie Tahat. “It still feels so close it kind of hurts.”

Proposition 1 was the culmination of a decade-plus struggle to pass a state law allowing counties to tax themselves for arts and culture education, and asked voters to approve a sales tax of 0.1 percent — a penny for every $10 — to support arts, culture and science access and education. In the campaign’s projections, that meant $30 a year for a household with an income of $80,000.

It was also a 10-year legacy project for some of King County’s old-guard cultural leaders, including Ben Moore, former longtime managing director of Seattle Repertory Theatre.

King County’s higher-profile organizations — the 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT Theatre, Artist Trust, Seattle Art Museum, On the Boards and so on — supported the measure.

It was also endorsed by smaller culture and science organizations including El Centro de la Raza,, Hugo House, Northwest African American Museum, and SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve.

So what’s next?

“If it had been a 10 percent loss, people might say ‘this idea just wasn’t in the cards,’ ” said Jim Kelly, executive director of King County’s 4Culture agency. “But a 2 percentage point loss is pretty close. I don’t know which feels worse — a big blowout loss or a ‘my goodness, what if we had done one thing differently?’ ”

The “Access for All” strategy team hasn’t been able to meet yet to strategize — technically, the Metropolitan King County Council could relaunch the measure on this year’s November ballot.

But, Kelly pointed out, that ballot will have a veterans and human services levy and the 2018 ballot will have a housing for the homeless levy. Either way, he suspects the King County culture constituency will try to take another crack at some variation on Proposition 1.

“It’s taxes, man,” Kelly said. “That’s the point we’ve gotten to in this state — taxes and government a la carte.” But he, and many people in the “Access for All” campaign, repeatedly stressed that they were hamstrung by Washington state’s refusal to join the majority of other states that have other forms of taxation (income tax, carbon tax, etc.), so they’re forced to use a meager toolbox to build resilient funding structures for meaningful projects.

Still, he said, some version of this measure must go forward.

“Typically, we wait for the future to get here and say ‘oh my God, what do we do?’ ” Kelly said. “But we have to plan for the future: schools, housing, transportation — and culture.”