Brawl of the Week: Larry Phillips v. Dow Constantine

Dow Constantine (left) and Larry Phillips are having a rematch.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, or so the saying goes. And King County Councilmember Larry Phillips is getting his. For the last week, he has been making it very clear that if Dow Constantine wants his support for his proposed 0.2 percent sales tax increase, intended to solve much of the $60 million deficit in the county general fund, he'll have to beg.

It's the 2009 King County Executive primary all over again. Except now, instead of foundering in the polls, Phillips has the upper hand. If Constantine wants to get this tax through, he'll need his former opponent on board, should the four Republicans on the nine-member council refuse to support it. (Kathy Lambert has already said she'll vote "no" unless union leaders say they will give up guaranteed raises and premium-free health care.)

In an interview with the Weekly Phillips calls Constantine's proposal "the wrong tax at the wrong time." So now Constantine, through his spokesperson Frank Abe, is on the defensive.

Who got in the best jabs? Let's take a look:

Larry Phillips' best punches:

*Playing the better-Dem card. "I'm not a fan of regressive taxes, I'm a Democrat for a reason," he tells the Weekly.

* With unemployment still inching up, the public might not be so excited about the tax either. Phillips notes that 35 percent of people in the construction industry are out of work. "That's Depression-era numbers," he says. "A sales tax will hit them hard."

* A sales tax won't keep us from having a deficit again next year. Phillips told Wednesday that county costs are rising about 4.8 percent per year, and revenues aren't keeping up.

Dow Constantine's best punches:

* If we don't pass it, you can kiss police protection in White Center goodbye. When Constantine announced the tax, he was flanked by Sheriff Sue Rahr who says that if the tax isn't approved by the council, and then voters, she'll have to fire 70 deputies. Drug dealers, take note.

* Phillips is being short-sighted. Abe told, that the sales tax hike is necessary to deal with the shortfall now, while the county figures out a way to cut costs, including negotiating with the unions. "We are taking a methodical, long-term approach," he says.

The odds-on favorite:

It may seem like Phillips raises legitimate concerns about the tax--it's regressive and a temporary fix. And if this were a statewide election, he would absolutely carry the day. But this is King County, where taxes do far better with both elected officials and voters. Plus, don't you want to keep eating pupusas in White Center without getting mugged thanks to the lack of Sheriff's deputies on the street? Of course you do. Odds are 3 - 1 in favor of Constantine.

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