They say the $930 million Move Seattle transportation levy proposed by Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council should not be called a “replacement” for a smaller levy that runs out this year.
A campaign formed to oppose the proposed $930 million Move Seattle transportation levy has filed a legal challenge against the ballot title.
The Keep Seattle Affordable campaign says it’s suing the city in King County Superior Court because the ballot title — written by City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office — refers to the Move Seattle levy as a replacement for the $365 million Bridging the Gap transportation levy, which voters approved in 2006 and which will expire this year.
Mayor Ed Murray introduced his plan for transportation funding in March, and the City Council voted in June to put Move Seattle on the Nov. 3 ballot as Seattle Proposition 1.
Like Bridging the Gap, the new measure would raise property taxes for nine years.
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The Move Seattle ballot title reads: “The City of Seattle’s Proposition 1 concerns replacement funding for citywide transportation maintenance and improvements.”
The title then adds: “If approved, this proposition would replace an expiring levy and would fund bridge seismic upgrades, transit corridor and light rail access projects, pedestrian and bicycle safety projects, synchronized traffic signals, street maintenance and repair, freight projects and neighborhood street projects.”
The Keep Seattle Affordable campaign, which earlier this month received a $25,000 contribution from North Seattle businesswoman Faye Garneau, is asking a judge to eliminate the word “replacement” — and the phrase “replace an expiring levy,” as well.
“We do not believe that this new levy, which proposes to raise close to $1 billion, is a ‘replacement’ for the transportation levy passed in 2006,” the campaign’s coordinator, Eugene Wasserman, said in a news release Monday. “It is an entirely new levy proposal and not a continuation of the past one.”
The campaign’s appeal says funds raised by Bridging the Gap were restricted and could not be used to repair or replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Funds raised by Move Seattle wouldn’t be restricted in that way, the appeal says.
Holmes’ office declined to comment Monday, and representatives of the mayor and council did not respond to requests for comment.
In the release, Garneau said Seattle is becoming “unaffordable for homeowners and renters with constant levy measures that raise property taxes and cause rents to be raised. This is very hard on the retired, renters, young families and their children.”
Councilmember Nick Licata sought to cut the proposed levy to $600 million and to collect $230 million instead through higher parking taxes and an employee-hours tax.
Joined by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, Licata noted that property taxes are regressive — they hit poor people harder. He warned that the larger the levy, the greater the risk of voters rejecting it.
But Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chaired the council’s Transportation Committee, expressed confidence in the measure passing.
Move Seattle would cost about $275 per year on a $450,000 home, with costs trickling down to renters in many cases. The annual bill for the same home is $130 under Bridging the Gap.