King County Executive Dow Constantine is advocating for yet another tax increase. This time, he is proposing an increase in the sales tax to pay for arts, science, and culture programs in the county. Executive Constantine’s goal is to get this proposal on the ballot in August. The proposed .1 percent increase in the sales tax would raise $469 million over seven years. Executive Constantine’s proposal for a sales tax increase to benefit art programs shows how out of step he is with the needs of King County.
Earlier this month, The Seattle Times editorial board ran a scathing editorial criticizing Executive Constantine’s lack of awareness of the issues in King County as he pushes for this specific tax increase. In their article, the editorial board explained issues such as large cuts at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, serious road problems in east King County, and the catastrophic failure at the West Point Treatment Plant leading to millions of gallons of untreated sewage flowing into the Puget Sound. The Seattle Times editorial board asked the question: “So why is county executive Dow Constantine asking for a tax hike to pay for arts?” Many of Executive Constantine’s constituents should be asking themselves the very same question. This much is clear: his priorities are out of order and he is not putting the needs of King County first.
Last week, Jonathan Martin, an editorial columnist from The Seattle Times, penned a great piece that analyzed Executive Constantine’s proposed tax increase in more depth. In the article, Martin writes on the ever worsening homelessness problem in King County, made worse by drug abuse and mental illness. This issue is very severe across the county, which leads us to again ask: why a tax that pays for art programs? In his article, Martin says Dow “is asking for a huge levy to address a nonemergency problem with a very regressive tax source which appeals to rich people … who happen to be his donors.” This is spot on. Executive Constantine is fighting for a sales tax increase that could help him receive donations from wealthy donors who are more interested in the arts, rather than attempting to solve any of the numerous serious issues the people of King County face today.
Ultimately, the potential sales tax increase shows Executive Constantine’s misplaced priorities for the citizens of King County. Instead of padding his resume with government funded fluff and making new friends in the wealthy arts community, Executive Constantine would do well to turn his attention to his constituents. King County has real problems that need serious attention, like the people living on the streets, the failure at the West Point Treatment Plant, the opioid epidemic, or any of the other serious issues that are impacting King County.