Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jail proposal too big to fit comfortably under the tax cap

A local controversy here in Whatcom County. Proposition 2015-1 the new jail tax proposal. Even our Bellingham City Police Guild has come out against this tax. From their web page it says:

If this passes, all of our public safety tax authority will be locked up for 30 years yet some of our most critical needs – for mental health or substance and alcohol abuse treatment—are left unanswered. As our community grows we may need to fund a police station, a mental health treatment facility or new fire stations to serve our neighborhoods. But if this tax passes, we may find that we can’t pay for programs and facilities that will keep your family safe and the mentally ill out of jail.

Yes, the problem of a big ticket item, such as this jail, bumping up against conservative led tax authority limits imposed on local governments by state initiatives.

Maybe a smaller jail, that doesn't tie up our taxing limit for the next 30 years, is a better idea?

Ironically, I notice (in a yellow mailer) that the Republican Party, in Whatcom County, supports this tax. Odd, Republicans supporting a tax. Support for public safety among both Republicans and Democrats is popular, but maybe there is a better way to maintain public safety than this large "one item" tax for the jail.

How about a smaller jail with more alternatives to incarceration? Another idea, supported by (I think) the mayor of Bellingham, is to use property taxes rather than sales taxes for part of the funding at least. Different state imposed caps, also property taxes can be less regressive than sales taxes. Another idea would be to support efforts, at the state level, to lift caps on local taxation.

This issue reminds me of the national topic of trying to squeeze the huge defense budget into the sequester.