What’s in a name?
Three million dollars. That’s how much Forbes Magazine forecasts that the Mariners will get for naming rights to the facility formerly known as Safeco Field. Wednesday morning communications company T-Mobile announced they have a secured a deal with the baseball team. If approved, the sports venue will known will be lnown as T-Mobile Park for the next 25 years.
The move is controversial because of the team’s contentious round of negotiations with the King County Council and the Public Facilities District, in which the Mariners extracted an agreement to use $135 million of public money from a lodging tax to pay for upgrades to the stadium.
Although the price point is smaller than what the Mariners originally wanted — roughly $185 million — it’s still a substantial investment of public funds that could otherwise be used for affordable housing. In return, the Mariners agreed to kick in hundreds of millions of dollars for plush upgrades, and agreed not to go the way of the bygone SuperSonics by ditching their hometown for greener pastures.
However, as Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat pointed out, the Mariners aren’t sharing the revenues from the naming rights to the publicly owned facility.
Coincidentally, the Mariners are partnering with the United Way to partially fund the Home Base initiative, which will provide households facing eviction with legal help and case management. The team is contributing $3 million, or roughly one year of naming rights revenue.
Budget season’s greetings
First the county, then the city and now the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee released his budget plan this week, announcing a $54.6 billion budget that aims to increase investments in education, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and initiatives to remake the mental health system.
To pay for it, he is taking aim once again at Washington’s wealthiest households with a capital gains tax on the sales of stocks, bonds and other assets that are predominately owned by the very rich. Inslee also envisions an increase to the state business and occupation tax on the service sector and the implementation of a graduated real estate excise tax.
If he can get all three changes through the Washington state legislature, the state would see an additional $4 billion of revenue over the next two years.
The proposed capital gains tax would put a 9 percent levy on capital gains earnings that top $25,000 for an individual and $50,000 for a household.
That percentage has crept up every time that Inslee proposes it; a look back at previous budgets shows a 7 percent capital gains tax plan in 2015 and a 7.9 percent proposal in 2017. To put it in context, Inslee’s newest proposal is still far below California’s 13.3 percent capital gains tax and lower than Oregon’s 9.9 percent tax.
The reason progressives keep coming for capital gains is that Washington state’s taxation system is highly regressive, and a combination of state law and the constitution make that hard to change. One way to even it out it is to implement taxes on things that only the wealthiest are likely to have, like luxury vehicles and financial assets.
Despite repeated attempts, Inslee hasn’t been able to get the capital gains proposal through the legislature. He may feel like his chances are better this year with Democrats in control of both houses.
The real estate excise tax plan would lower the tax on properties valued under $250,000 from the current 1.28 percent flat rate to .75 percent and increase taxes on properties worth $1 million to 2 percent.
It would go higher for real estate worth $5 million, clocking in at 2.5 percent. Anything between $250,000 and $1 million would stay at the current 1.28 percent.
Graduated taxes are rare in this state due to the uniformity clause in the constitution that prohibits similar types of property from being taxed at different rates. The real estate excise tax gets around that because it is separate from regular property taxes, according to the Washington State Budget and Policy Center.
City takes step to fight misconduct
Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation Friday that created a new Office of the Employee Ombud, an independent arm of the executive office intended to help city employees alleging workplace discrimination and harassment.
The office is separate from the Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources. Beyond providing individual employees with options to address their concerns about or claims of misconduct, it will also aim to make system-level changes through new policies, rules and trainings.
The legislation has been in the works practically since Durkan took office. She convened the an interdepartmental team to come up with recommendations in January and then signed an executive order creating the office in September. The council received legislation around the office in October, and signed it in early December.
According to a press release, the city expects the office to be “functional” in early 2019.
In the release, Durkan credited groups of city employees who came forward with complaints such as the Silence Breakers, the Coalition of Affinity Groups Against Racial Harassment and the Race and Social Justice affiliates as well as Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda for their work on the legislation.
“This is an historic and meaningful step on the path of combating harassment, discrimination and misconduct at the City of Seattle,” Durkan said in the release.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read the full Dec. 19 - Dec. 25 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.