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King County Council sends tax increase measure to November ballot

Facing a projected $60 million budget deficit, the Metropolitan King County Council today approved sending to the voters in November a proposal to raise the sales and use tax in King County by two-tenths of one percent. The revenue raised by the ballot measure would go predominately to public safety services.

“It’s important to remember that the council did not raise taxes today,” said Councilwoman Julia Patterson, chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “We’re giving voters the chance to tell us if they support public safety services provided by King County and every other city in the County.”

If approved by voters, the increase would generate approximately $59 million in revenue for King County in 2011 and $80 million in 2012, the first full year the levy would be collected. Under the proposal, the county’s portion of the proceeds would be used solely for public safety programs ranging from the sheriff and prosecutor’s office to public defense and jail health services.

In addition, 40 percent of the tax proceeds would go to the 39 cities within King County based on their population. This would mean that approximately $24 million would go to city governments with the County. State law requires that cities must spend one-third of the proceeds on criminal justice services.

The sales tax increase would remain in effect for a maximum of three years.

Along with an increase in the sales tax, the measure would use a portion of the county’s unincorporated area levy, $9.5 million in 2011, to fund police services in the county’s unincorporated communities.

The adopted ordinance now goes to the voters on November 2 as part of the general election ballot.

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