Safety, housing, transportation: Seattle mayor releases 2020 budget proposal | KNKX

Safety, housing, transportation: Seattle mayor releases 2020 budget proposal

Sep 23, 2019

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has released her spending priorities for 2020, focusing on new investments to address the city's most pressing problems.

Durkan is proposing to spend a total of $6.5 billion next year. That's about $4 million more than officials said they would spend in 2020 this time last year.

The bulk of new funding does not come from new taxes. The city is getting one big cash infusion from the sale of several properties in South Lake Union known as the Mercer Mega Block. The city council approved the $143.5 million sale earlier this month.

Seattle also benefits from recent legislative changes that allow the city to retain a portion of the state sales tax and to use real estate taxes already being collected for housing and homelessness issues. 

In a speech Monday presenting her budget proposal at Franklin High School, Durkan painted a rosy picture of Seattle's future.

"Seattle's changing, and with our budget we can decide what kind of city we want to be," Durkan said. "Basic city services are only the floor. We can and must do much more than that."

The mayor already had announced many of the proposals she highlighted Monday. Those included new investments in affordable housing and transportation stemming from the Mercer Mega Block sale and the new sales tax credit.

In the past few weeks, Durkan also has rolled out proposals for new investments in public safety. Those include a $1.6 million plan to recruit and retain more police officers, reviving the Community Service Officer program, and several pilot projects to keep people struggling with behavioral health issues, substance abuse and homelessness from cycling in and out of jail. She also announced more funding for first responders to address that population.

"Public safety is about a lot more than police and firefighters," Durkan said, trying to tie her proposals together. "True public safety means that everyone, regardless of where they live or what their background is, has access to real opportunity."

One new proposal is an extra $3 million to nearly double the city's Child Care Assistance Program. The plan would allow more people to qualify for assistance.

Although the mayor didn't always linger on specifics, the issue of homelessness permeated throughout her speech as she addressed concerns about safety and affordability. 

The big change on that front is a new regional homelessness authority proposed by Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine. Durkan's 2020 budget sets aside funds to stand up that authority. But the details of combining Seattle and King County's emergency homelessness response are still being worked out by the city and county councils.

Another proposal the City Council will have to comb through is Durkan's effort to tax ride share companies to close the gap in streetcar funding and pay for affordable housing. 

The council is expected to decide on those proposals and the budget later toward the end of the year.