Chamber endorses measures for transit service and Harborview Medical Center

By: Alicia Teel Posted: 09/28/2020

Ballot measures would make investments critical to a competitive, resilient, and equitable economy

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce announced its support for two important ballot measures on this November's ballot: City of Seattle Proposition 1, which would fund transit and related needs in the City of Seattle, and King County Proposition 1, which would make public health, safety, and seismic improvements to Harborview Medical Center.


The Chamber endorsed these measures following its member-led process. In both cases, members carefully considered how these investments contribute to a competitive, equitable, and resilient economic recovery.


City of Seattle Proposition 1: Funding for Transit and Related Transportation Needs

This measure renews funding that primarily supports the City of Seattle's ability to buy supplemental transit service from King County Metro.  It also allocates some funding for emerging service needs such as West Seattle transit while the West Seattle Bridge is closed, street maintenance, and transit access for low-income residents, essential workers, seniors, and youth.

The initial measure, approved by voters in 2014, raised roughly $50 million each year from a 0.1% sales tax and a $60 vehicle license fee. It added over 8,000 weekly transit trips, and over 350,000 service hours each year  - expanding transit access for a growing city.

The funding for this year's six-year renewal comes entirely from a 0.15% sales and use tax that generates approximately $39 million each year, or $234 million over the full renewal. While the renewal increases the sales tax rate, it raises less overall funding because it does not include car tabs - a choice city leaders made since the lawsuit against Tim Eyman's measure limiting car tabs to $30 remains unresolved.

The Chamber's review of this measure brought up a number of concerns: we continue to have a preference for transportation to be handled regionally, rather than on a city-by-city basis. We are also concerned that language in the renewal speaks to the potential for the City to levy multiple impact fees. Finally, this measure is a tax increase that provides no expansion of services. The City of Seattle should strive to collaborate with King County for a regional transportation investment and prevent the implementation of impact fees, which could exacerbate Seattle’s housing shortage.

Ultimately, with transit funding already threatened by Tim Eyman's I-976 and with many workers still relying on transit, the Chamber supports the renewal of the Seattle Transportation Benefit District.  Funding for transportation is of crucial importance for our region, even more so for economic recovery. This measure is consistent with the Chamber’s focus on advancing an equitable economic recovery. Funding to support transit access for those who face affordability challenges, as well as for emerging service needs like supporting transit in West Seattle, reinforces this point.

King County Proposition 1: Harborview Medical Center Health and Safety Improvement Bonds

This measure would authorize $1.74 billion in 20-year bonds to make public health, safety, and seismic improvements to Harborview Medical Center, the only Level 1 trauma center serving Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. As a public hospital, Harborview treats a broad spectrum of patients from throughout the region, including the most vulnerable residents of King County.

Since the last round of major capital improvements, King County’s population has grown by 30% and the landscape of medicine—particularly infectious diseases—has changed. This bond would give the hospital the capacity to surge in case of an emergency. The bond would also allow Harborview to make needed updates to infection control standards.  Some of the biggest updates that need to be made are ensuring the primary tower is seismically safe and updating the emergency room, which at present is essentially one large room with curtains separating patients.

As a bond measure, Proposition 1 needs 60% of voters to support it and requires voter turnout to be at least 40% of voters in the last general election. If it passes, the bonds issued would be paid back through annual property tax levies on all taxable property in King County. The property tax levy is estimated to be $75 annually for a $600,000,  median-priced home in King County.

The Chamber supports the Harborview Bond because the hospital is a critical component of health care, not just locally, but for the entire Pacific Northwest. Its presence in our region is important from a public health, equity, and economic standpoint. It employs over 5,400 people and King County estimates that construction of the medical center’s needed improvements will create about 7,700 jobs.