Monday, January 12, 2009

Seattle Times: County May Gain Control Over Locally Generated Tax

Okay, the story had a different title, we all see what we want to see. Buried in the story Huskies May Play 2010 Season in Qwest Field is a meaningful part for KeyArena.

There is a major push, partly through the efforts of the University of Washington's lobbying efforts for a major remodel of Huskie Stadium, to give the authority to the local government to decide the priority for spending the locally collected tax revenue. In this case the Seattle Times story is talking about King County, and the taxing authority going to the King County Council and not have it reside in the state legislature. These funds can only be spent on youth athletic facilities, arts, cultural centers, stadiums, just infrastructure, not for operating expenditures. They have to build with it, in this case, possibly Huskie Stadium.

This is not just some other general fund budget item that could just as well get spent on anything state-wide. This tax is not collected generally and should not get raided to be spent generally.

Do the people on the other side of the state really think I want to pay 2.8% more for french fries so they can take that tax money for a state general obligation in their town? They should tax their own businesses if they want those funds, or not ask for them. If I am dumb enough to tax myself in order to build this stuff I really, really do want the revenue from those taxes to actually build and pay for it, really.

I really thought the Huskie Stadium effort would be the fall guy in trying to get the funds, but still prevent them form being raided and spread all over the state. But they have proved to be a very, very useful entity in promoting a message that increases the understanding within the Washington State legislature, and possibly the general public. King County business carry a greater burdon and that same locality should benefit and control the fund the tax produces.

Why this matters to KeyArena and Sonics fans:
Seattle is in King County. It has a similar tax as the county does drawn from city hotels. It is also requesting local use of locally generated tax revenues. If Huskie supporters are successful in this argument there is a very good chance that what is fair for the county is fair for the city, and KeyArena.
At the very least we have a more popular, powerful, and funded lobby educating people and influencing the legislature to make an effort to understand the position from the tax burdon/benefit position, rather than the very unpopular and dumb argumant about somebody that does not contribute to the tax fund deciding if the county or city deserve a remodeled stadium, or arena, or youth athletic fields.

Even if the argument for Huskie Stadium is not successful, the the question of tax fairness being advanced helps the KeyArena cause, at the same time somebody other than Sonics fans take the hits for asking the state to follow its own law, and not raid the fund, screwing Seattle and King County in the process.

Go Huskies!

Have a great day,
Mr Baker
Sent from my iPhone

Monday, January 5, 2009

Seattle Times' Steve Kelley: Clock is ticking for city's NBA hopes

Way to kick out the jams Steve Kelley.
Today Kelley beat the trash can lids to the rhythm of truth and sang the song of the KeyArena blues.
It's beat, it's aging, and mostly empty.

Where are the business leaders Kelley wants to know. And, "Where is the civic pride?"

Great questions, unanswered for the most part, ignored by too many that insist on calling themselves business, or civic leaders.
I have wondered this as well. As much as Seattle is similar to other towns, in that we have our share of bandwagon fans, and general gloryhounds, there are more then our fair share of good and well-to-do citizens that prize themselves as leaders. Somebody has to step up to show public leadership, we have enough back room power brokers in this, but that is rarely enough to make something this big and complex happen.

At some point I was expecting the major sports writers to kick off the conversation with the general public. I thought it would have happened sooner, but those thoughts were rolling around in my head, and some comments here, back before the economy flipped on its head. We are, like it or not, bound to the schedule of the Washington State Legislature.

Thank you Steve Kelley for attending college basketball games in what was a pro basketball arena, and should be again.
Read Steve Kelley's column in the Seattle Times, here:
Clock is Ticking!
Have a great day,
Mr Baker
Sent from my iPhone

Friday, January 2, 2009 : KeyArena redo faces uphill battle for funds

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has a story today on the "shaky ground" the proposal is on heading into the current state legislative session.
Reprehensive Ross Hunter (D - Medina) said in an interview after the December 1st meeting of the Joint Task Force Local Financing Options for King County that is supposed to prioritize spending for special tax revenue collected in Seattle (7%) on hotels and King County (2%) on hotels, car rental, and restaurants, that they would try to have a report written before the legislative session.

However, 2009 is here and the legislative task force charged with putting that report together, outlining how to spend King County taxes, has yet to meet, said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, co-chair of the group.
Hunter said it’s unlikely that the group will meet before the Legislature convenes Jan. 12, and that the task force will have to put together a report during the first few weeks of the session.

How much attention that report receives is unknown because lawmakers will be spending most of their time trying to figure out how to balance the state budget, with a projected deficit of more than $5 billion.
“The reality is, we are going to issue a report that will have some weight in the Legislature,” Hunter said. “But this is obviously a very contentious issue, and it’s going to be dwarfed by the whole budget disaster."

I thought that it was unusual that Hunter would offer a report on spending priorities before he knew how much money he really had, or has. That offer to have the report done was before the governor provided a budget, before state governors and city mayors provided President-elect Obama a laundry list of requests for federal funding support.

State officials will start the legislative session on January 12th, that's before the size and scope of the federal stimulus package will be known. The state budget process is, in effect, backward. Projected revenue drop-offs may be mitigated by federal spending, Governor Chris Gregoire projected 1 billion dollars of federal money into her budget proposal on December 18th. Since then the federal stimulus package has grown from 2.5 million jobs to 3.2 million.

Back to the Eric Williams story:

But competition for the funding is fierce, and includes a $150 million request from the University of Washington to complete a $300 million proposal to revamp Husky Stadium and a $766 million expansion project put forth by the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to double the size of its current downtown Seattle facility. King County arts groups, youth athletic programs and low-income housing programs also want a piece of the pie.
That funding could be limited if state lawmakers decide to use money from the King County taxes funding source to help balance the budget as the state deals with a weak economy.

"We cannot satisfy all of the groups that are asking for funds,” Hunter said. “That can't happen because they add up to more that there is. You also have to balance what it is the Legislature is likely to do. I can’t predict it. I honestly do not know the answer.”
Hunter had said in December that he would get feedback from the rest of the task force about what their priorities are, and craft a recommendation the majority of the group can support. If some sort of agreement couldn’t be reached, Hunter said the group would put together a report outlining the options.
“We will all be forced together in about a week and a half, and that will solve the problem,” Hunter said.

Rumors keep swirling around that UW husky stadium remodel might end up entirely privately funded, which might explain Hunter's remarks about not having enough money for all of these projects.

The task force has not gotten together since the December 1st meeting, and I would not expect them to until they have an idea of how much federal money may be coming the states way. If the funding is significant enough there will be a big shell game to extract state money from one project covered by federal money, and patch other holes in the state budget.

To be clear, the potential is that the hotel owners in Seattle are saddled with an added 7% sales tax on top of the existing state wide sales tax for the express purpose of funding infrastructure projects in Seattle that boost trade and tourism, such as the Washing State Convention & Trade Center. I am not sure how the hoteliers will react if that fund is raided again. The fund was raided last year to patch a hole in the budget, state lawmakers were pressured to act to prevent that from happening again by passing a law on July 1st.

The tax collected in the city, and the tax collected in the county are often seen as the same, but they are slightly different in their purposes, one for convention center funding and the other sports stadium funding. The convention center folks and the city are looking to split that 7% fund, 6% for the convention center, 1% for Seattle Center's KeyArena.

My opinion is that if it is such a good idea to tax hotels an added 7% to spend state wide, then the hotels state wide should be taxed the added 7%, and not just the hotels in Seattle. But I am just a citizen of Seattle.
I think we are waiting two or three weeks to know how much money there really is, and then to the end of March to see the next quarterly revenue projection to see how much money there will be.
If this does not happen this year it could be a very long time before KeyArena get's any kind of remodel, and even longer for the NBA to return to Seattle.