Today, the Seattle City Council voted on two pieces of legislation sponsored by Councilmember Mike O’Brien (Dist. 6, Northwest Seattle), chair of the Sustainability & Transportation Committee, passing Council Bill 119551 by a 7-1 vote and Council Bill 119402 by a 7-1 vote. Together, the two pieces of legislation create dedicated funds for the Sweetened Beverage Tax (SBT) and the Short-term Rental Tax revenues.
“Public health advocates and community organizations that represent communities of color and low income communities led the work for the Sweetened Beverage Tax with the understanding that the city would invest the revenues back into those communities to help them have access to healthier foods. The city must stand by that commitment,” said Councilmember O’Brien.
Council Bill 119551 creates a separate fund for Sweetened Beverage Tax revenues. It codifies financial policies so that the Sweetened Beverage Tax revenue stays true to its original intent and goals, by requiring revenue from the tax to be spent in communities long affected by food insecurity, education divestments and poor nutrition. The legislation leaves the 2019 adopted budget intact, and ensures that moving forward, SBT proceeds shall only be used to grow programs or create new programs in areas identified as priorities in the original SBT ordinance.
Council Bill 119402 establishes a fund and financial policies for Short-term Rental Tax revenues, prioritizing money for Equitable Development Initiative grants and investments in affordable housing.
Councilmembers Mosqueda, Gonzalez, Herbold and O’Brien honored their long-term commitment to community-based organizations in a letter to the mayor last week, stating:
We understand that the Mayor’s Office is currently at work to develop the details of the 2020 budget; it is our hope that you will utilize this opportunity to keep the 2020- SBT funded programs whole, per Ordinance 125324, and use SBT revenues to increase these services before transmitting your proposed 2020 budget to Council for legislative action beginning in September of this year. If your 2020 budget does not do so, then the City Council, as the sole, Charter-authorized budget appropriation authority, will make every effort to restore funding consistent with Ordnance 125324 and Council Bill 119551, as amended.
Through the summer, the Mayor will develop a proposal for the city budget to be transmitted to City Council by September 23, 2019.
“As the Mayor looks at all the revenue that’s available to her at this time and then sends us a budget, we will see what she prioritizes. I will say right now, if those revenues are disproportionately falling on low-income people to fund broad, citywide initiatives, I’m unlikely to support that,” O’Brien said.