County voters reject arts, heritage, science tax

A King County measure that proposed a sales tax hike to provide funding for local art, science and culture organizations to increase accessibility has failed.

Proposition 1, also known as Access for All, would have instituted a sales tax increase of 0.1 percent — one penny for every $10 spent — for the next seven years. It was expected to generate $68 million in revenue county-wide. But the proposition was rejected by more than 51 percent of county voters with 49 percent in approval: a close race. The proposition needed 50 percent approval to pass.

While ballots are still being counted and results will be certified Tuesday, the proposition’s fate is set.

On Monday, Cultural Access Washington (the organization spearheading the campaign for Access for All) posted on its Facebook page and said that there are too few ballots left to count to push the measure to the required 50 percent approval mark.

“We can officially say that Access for All will not be law in the immediate future,” the post indicated. “We know that it’s unfortunate news, but there’s still a lot to be proud of. We ran a good campaign, and we always knew it would be tough. But in the end, we just didn’t make it this time around.”

Multiple island organizations came out in support of the proposition, including Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA), Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association, Vashon Island Chorale and the Friends of Mukai. Susan Warner, VCA’s executive director, said last month that the organization could receive between $100,000 and $200,000 if Proposition 1 passed. Friends of Mukai President Lynn Greiner said her organization could have received a portion of more than $4 million earmarked to heritage organizations county-wide.

Reached Monday, VCA board president Denise Katz said she was “so sad” about the measure’s defeat.

“We were really hoping it would pass,” she said. “It really would’ve been a great opportunity not just for VCA, but for the entire island.”

Meanwhile, Vashon Island Chorale board member Karen Baer said she was “very disappointed, but not surprised” by the measure’s defeat.

Precinct-specific election results were still incomplete Monday with only six of Vashon’s 18 voting precincts listed on King County Elections’ election-night results page. Only two of Vashon’s six listed precincts had definitive “approved” or “rejected” determinations with one in approval and one rejecting the proposition.

Full results will be available when the election is certified Tuesday.

Prop. 1 represented years of work to create a state cultural access law that allows any county in the state to put a measure before its voters to fund arts, heritage and science nonprofit organizations that provide public programs and activities. That state law was passed in 2015, but Prop. 1 was the first attempt to reap the benefits of such a law in King County.

And while the measure was backed by hundreds of organizations county-wide, including some of the largest like Seattle Opera and the Seattle Art Museum, it was countered by King County’s District 5 councilmember Dave Upthegrove and District 2 councilmember Larry Gossett. According to The Seattle Times, both said they believed Prop. 1 was not a top priority as homelessness, mental-health issues, chronic cuts to the criminal-justice system and new taxes to fund education are all also in need of funding from taxpayers.


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