Seattle budget addresses Amazon, homelessness

Mayor Tim Burgess presents his proposed budget at the Seattle City Council's meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (Seattle Channel)

Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess presented his budget to the city council Monday after one week on the job. The Burgess budget calls for Seattle to better engage major employers while increasing funding for a range of initiatives.

“Forty percent of of our workers have no access to a workplace retirement savings plan,” Burgess noted before announcing a major aspect of the proposed budget — a city retirement program.

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“In the wealthiest nation in the world, this is not good news because retirees without savings will not be able to participate in Seattle as they should … these are people that work hard at our restaurants and hair salons and auto repair shops,” he said. “Legislation I am submitting to the council will create the Seattle Retirement Savings Plan.”

The Burgess budget is now in the hands of the city council. A new budget is expected to be passed before the end of the year.

Highlights of the Burgess budget

City retirement plan: Proposed legislation creating a retirement savings plan for workers whose employers do not offer any such programs. When workers change jobs, the plan will follow them. Workers can determine how much they contribute. Burgess said it will help 200,000 Seattle workers with no retirement savings plans.

Fire department funding: An increase in funding for staffing at the dispatch center, as well as another aid car. The proposed budget doubles the number of firefighting recruiting classes.
Families and Education Levy and Seattle Preschool Levy: Both levies expire in 2018. Burgess is asking the council to put replacement levies on the next ballot. The proposed budget also expands the Parent-Child Home Program using funds from the newly established sweetened beverage tax.

Homelessness response: An increase to funds for homelessness programs, raising spending to $63 million in 2018. This will fund an additional outreach team (a total of two) and an outreach position at Seattle Public Libraries. The new outreach team will focus on people living in vehicles.

Domestic violence: The budget funds a unit in the city attorney's office that oversees local gun forfeitures (such as when a domestic abuser is ordered to turn over their firearms), and adds detectives to enforce the program. It also funds advocates that engage with victims of sexual assault, and assists children, teens and adults experiencing sexual violence.

The Seattle budget and Amazon

Burgess said he met with King County Executive Dow Constantine following Amazon’s announcement to place a second headquarters in another city.

“We received a jolt a few weeks ago when one of our local companies announced plans to open a second headquarters,” Burgess said. “…we will respond to the Amazon challenge in partnership with King County and other municipal and county governments in our region.”

“We will not only respond to Amazon; we will also form a strategic partnership with others in our region to focus on economic stability and growth,” he said. “Jobs matter, and government can help create an environment where businesses can launch and soar, 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.”

Amazon’s aim for a second headquarters — HQ2 — in North America comes with certain requirements. It has to be near a major international airport, for example.

The online shopping giant expects to spend $5 billion on the new headquarters which will house up to 50,000 jobs. Seattle officials have indicated that they want those jobs to stay in the Puget Sound region.