In his column today, Joel Connelly cries "enough already" on the levies proposed for the 2008 ballot and the potential burden they might place on Seattle and Seattle area taxpayers. He points out that the ballot could contain all of the following: a $6 billion Sound Transit light rail proposal, a $150 million parks levy, and a $75 million Pike Place Market renovation levy. (To these he adds the City Council's proposed 20 cent tax on disposable grocery bags.)
Nevertheless, the key to the problem--insofar as we have one--is not in the spending, but in the word that appears only once in his column, in a quote from former Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald: regressive. The tax burden of Seattleites is actually quite modest, mainly because neither the city nor the state see fit to assess an income tax. Most of our public works are funded by increases in the sales tax, which falls just this side of a poverty tax, or in the slightly less regressive property taxes. (Washington's tax structure has been called the most regressive in the nation.)
Our low tax burden is one reason our transportation infrastructure has fallen so far behind our population growth. We can continue to face the liberal's dilemma of regressively funded public works (a divide-and-conquer dream for the Tim Eyman crowd), or we can figure out a more equitable way to create the spending increases needed to fund big city infrastructure. A progressively structured income tax, even if just within the city, would be a good start.