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Seattle Mayor Changes Course On Tax To Fight Homelessness

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Will James
/
KNKX
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announces his intentions to pursue a $275 million property tax levy to fight homelessness. The mayor has since changed course.

Instead of a property tax to fight homelessness, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he will now pursue a countywide sales tax increase.

Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Monday that Seattle and King County will coordinate to provide homeless services. 

That effort includes a proposed 2018 ballot measure to increase the sales tax by 0.1 percent.

"The opportunity we have with the county, we can actually raise more money," Murray said in an interview.

Murray said that homelessness wasn't just a problem in Seattle.

"If we can start putting homeless services in other parts of the county, it's going to help those folks who struggle that don't live in Seattle," he said.

The sales tax increase would raise about $68 million per year. The original proposal worked out to about $55 million per year for five years. 

About a month ago, Murray proposed a $275 million property tax levy for homeless services in Seattle. Supporters had already started gathering signatures for an August ballot measure.

Critics were concerned about another property tax increase after voters approved levies for housing and transit last year. Some called it regressive, but sales taxes are also considered regressive because they hit those with lower incomes the hardest.

"We don't have progressive taxes in Washington state," Murray said. "So the only options cities and counties have are mostly regressive taxes. There's no real other way around that."

The money from the sales tax would be used to get unsheltered people into permanent homes and for mental health and addiction services around the county.

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.
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