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King County Ballot Measure Would Increase Sales Tax To Fund Arts And Culture

Paula Wissel
The Pacific Science Center would benefit if a proposed countywide sales tax measure passes.

Are you willing to pay an extra $30  in sales tax a year to help support museums, theaters and other cultural institutions? That’s the question King County voters are being asked in the form of Proposition 1, Sales Tax for Cultural Access Program.The measure would help support institutions like the Seattle Symphony and the Enumclaw History Museum. A portion would have to be spent making arts, heritage and science programs more accessible, particularly for kids.

Manny Cawaling, Executive Director of Youth Theatre Northwest, is a strong advocate for the sales tax increase. He said such funding would be a lifeline to community-based groups like his.

Speaking before the King County Council earlier this year, Cawaling said he had once been offered the associate artistic directorship at the Northwest Asian American Theater. He didn’t take it, thinking it was something he could always go back to. But the theater company went under.

“That did not survive and it’s a resource that kids cannot have today to learn about their Asian Pacific American experience. If there was an access for all measure, then we would have that theater and people would be able to experience our culture through theater,” he said.

Opposition to the cultural access tax comes from many fronts.

Some say adding to the sales tax places an unfair burden on the poor. Other critics say the county has higher priorities such as housing and transportation.

Still others, including opponents to the Woodland Park Zoo, either don’t like some of the specific organizations funded or that a lot of the money goes to large relatively wealthy organizations.

The measure appears on primary ballots across the county, which need to be returned by Aug. 1.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.