We haven’t posted much about the minor Council/Mayor scrum over the Commercial Parking Tax (CPT) and the seawall. However, this Streets for all Seattle letter of August 5th clarifies the transportation angle:
We are writing today concerning the proposal to fund seawall-related work by raising the existing 10% commercial parking tax (CPT) to 12.5%. While Streets For All Seattle coalition members recognize the City’s obligations on the seawall replacement, we believe that allocation of our limited, flexible transportation funds to a single, capital-intensive project would unnecessarily curtail the opportunity before us to engage in a holistic transportation discussion during the budget process.
As I understand it, the CPT can only be used for transportation improvements and is capped at 20%, 10 points above its current level of 10%. The Mayor would like to have a property tax measure this year to pay for the seawall and dedicate the CPT revenue (according to PubliCola a 5-10 point increase) “toward road maintenance, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure,” in the words of McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus. More after the jump.
Meanwhile, the Council wants to raise the CPT only 2.5 points and dedicate that funding to seawall planning, and a few other downtown-ish projects, thus deferring the big seawall tax measure to a later date. Council President Richard Conlin points out that a seawall ballot measure must “wait until better times to go to the voters for a property tax levy to support the majority of the funding for the project… there needs to be a full campaign and a careful explanation of the need and benefits for such a ballot issue to be successful.” Meanwhile, the CPT can be raised to address immediate planning needs without a public vote.
As taxes go, it doesn’t get much more benign than a parking tax, which discourages driving to the most transit-accessible neighborhoods in the city. On the other hand, Conlin pointed out that the CPT essentially applies to downtown and must be seen to fund downtown projects; and that if it goes too high Conlin fears it will drive shoppers out of downtown. Council Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen added that “the City has doubled that tax in the last few years.”