The Progressive Revenue Task Force (PRTF) released its final report today with the unanimous consent of its 17 members. The City Council formed the PRTF to explore potential new progressive revenue options including an employee hours’ tax (EHT) and to identify potential investments that address Seattle’s homelessness State of Emergency.
The PRTF members highlighted the close relationship between economic growth, rising homelessness, and a severe shortage of affordable housing stock. This “housing gap” is greatest for the lowest-income households, those making 0-30% of Area Median Income, who also tend to be at the greatest risk of homelessness.
The PRTF members identified the expansive need for funding and recommended that 80% of secured funds be used for the development of long-term, deeply affordable housing with 20% to be directed towards service areas like prevention, diversion and shelter programs.
To address these needs, the PRTF members recommended that $150 million in new progressive revenues be collected annually. Half of this, or $75 million, would be generated via an EHT, and the PRTF members offered the Council options to consider with respect to possible exemptions and several proposed taxation and implementation methods.
The PRTF members recommended generating the additional $75 million through other potential means of progressive taxation; however, they only recommend pursuing those additional funds if the currently-convened “One Table” group does not pursue at least $75 million in progressive revenues. The PRTF proposes massively increased annual investments in permanent housing as the most effective way to make a measurable reduction in homelessness as well as reduce the impacts of homelessness on Seattle’s neighborhood business districts.
Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle & South Park), PRTF co-chair, said “I’m thankful that this group of stakeholders has proposed a solution to this crisis that embeds a recognition that taxes that treat businesses equally are regressive to small and low-profit margin businesses. Washington State has the most regressive structure of taxation in the US. As the Federal Government makes our already regressive tax structure even more regressive with corporate tax breaks, we have a responsibility to act locally with all the tools we have available to us.” Herbold went on to thank King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson for their Seattle Times editorial to “Align the system with the modern economy, instead of an outdated structure that relies so heavily on a narrowing base of property and sales tax,” and for their belief that “a fair tax system is one based on the ability to pay.”
“While we have made measurable improvements in outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness, the crisis continues to grow due to complex economic, societal, and health-related factors as well as a lack of significant federal and state support. Exacerbating the problem are state laws that severely limit localities’ taxing authority to primarily property and sales taxes — each layered with its own restrictions. Without a meaningful expansion of local investment in interventions that are showing promising results, I expect the crisis to continue,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide), PRTF co-chair. “Now that we have received the Task Force’s recommendations, I will continue engaging with my colleagues on the Council to develop, pass and ultimately implement a legislative proposal which succeeds in making the meaningful impacts we all seek.”
The PRTF’s Final Report, membership list, meeting materials and meeting recordings are available on the PRTF website. The 17-member PRTF was co-chaired by Councilmember M. Lorena González, Councilmember Lisa Herbold, Tony To, and Kirsten Harris-Talley. Councilmembers will review the PRTF recommendations at the next Finance & Neighborhoods Committee meeting on March 14 at 2 p.m. in City Council Chambers. The Council intends to begin developing and deliberating legislation in the coming weeks and expects to vote on a legislative proposal later this Spring.