Burgess unveils budget for 2018

Temporary Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess introduced his 2018 budget proposal to city council last Monday, which will include funding for sexual abuse survivors, enhanced food security, protections for survivors of domestic violence and to assess a retirement savings program for residents.

Burgess was a city councilmember a little more than a week ago, and took the mayor’s seat this month after Ed Murray resigned in the wake of a fifth allegation of child sexual abuse. The council will now consider Burgess’ $1.1 billion budget proposal, which is guaranteed to be amended over the next few months.

“We know the terrible harm that can come from sexual abuse, and we know that survivors who are refugees, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community can be particularly vulnerable,” Burgess said while delivering his 2018 budget. “We also know the profound grace and strength survivors have shown, often without us knowing the sources of the pain they carry, or even that they carry it at all … For all affected by the scourge of sexual violence, and for all involved in the particular events that have shaken us so recently, we wish appropriate measures of justice and continued steps forward along a healing path.”

Burgess’ budget includes $500,000 in additional funding to support survivors of sexual abuse through crisis intervention and addressing long-term health and mental health issues.

Burgess said this funding would allow for more mobile advocates to meet domestic violence and sex abuse victims where they’re most comfortable and investment in the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence.

Another $162,000 is budgeted for the Domestic Violence Firearm Surrender program. Under I-1491, which Washington voters approved in 2016, family members and law enforcement can petition the courts to have a person’s firearms removed if they pose a risk to themselves or others. The Legislature adopted similar legislation for people subjected to domestic violence protection orders in 2014.

Burgess said the city needs resources to make sure those firearms are actually being surrendered, and his budget would fund a Domestic Violence Firearm Surrender program manager and incremental funding for four Seattle Police detectives to support those efforts.

The Seattle City Council approved a 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages in June, which takes effect in January and is expected to raise $14.8 million in 2018.

Burgess said his budget will use much of that revenue to enhance food security in Seattle, including doubling the buying power of the Fresh Buck program, which matches every dollar spent at farmers markets by people using food stamp benefits. The city reports $2.4 million in the budget will expand program eligibility for those who do not qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Burgess’ budget also proposes putting $1.38 million of the tax revenue into the 13th Year Promise Scholarship, which is being run by the Seattle College Foundation. The plan is to eventually be able to dedicate a $5 million endowment to the plan to allow local graduating seniors one year of tuition-free education at a Seattle College.

There is also $2.7 million that would be dedicated to early learning for children up to three years of age.

The mayor discussed his Seattle Retirement Savings Plan (SRSP), legislation for which he said will soon be transmitted to the city council for consideration.

Burgess said 40 percent of Seattle residents do not have the benefit of workplace retirement savings, such as auto mechanics and restaurant workers. He added those without such savings are disproportionately black, Latino and Asian.

“In one of the wealthiest cities in America, we can do better for our workers,” Burgess said.

The mayor’s budget includes $200,000 for a market feasibility study and legal analysis of the SRSP, which would allow employers to sign up employees — workers can choose to opt out — for independent retirement accounts. Employees would be able to decide how much of their paycheck would be placed into the IRA, Burgess said, and how it should be invested. If they take a new job, they could bring the IRA with them.

“It is pro-business, it is pro-economic stability, it is pro-economic growth and it is pro-worker,” Burgess said.

The mayor said his budget would increase what Seattle spends to address the homeless crisis to $63 million, however, he wants to make sure tax dollars are being spent wisely. He will soon send to council legislation that mandates the Human Services Department ensure all expenditures, including to service contractors, have measurable outcomes. It would also provide incentive pay for performance.

Burgess stated his support to continued improvement to police accountability and transparency. His budget would double the number of employees for an Office of Inspector General for Public Safety and add staff to the Community Police Commission and Office of Police Accountability.

The mayor said someone in his position needs to make it clear that black lives matter.

“Black lives matter in policing, black lives matter in education, black lives matter in our economic system,” Burgess said. “We must squarely face our history of racism and injustice, and frankly that’s something I don’t think our country has really done.”

Amazon’s decision to invest $5 billion in a second company headquarters somewhere in the United States was a “jolt,” said Burgess, but the city will partner with King County — taking the lead — and other regional municipalities to focus on economic stability and growth.

“Jobs matter, and government can help create an environment where businesses can launch and soar,” Burgess said, “where workers and their families can benefit, where our children can learn the skills needed in the 21st century, and where we can raise the tax revenues necessary to care for our people and implement the values we dearly hold.”