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Originally published Sunday, February 27, 2011 at 4:00 PM

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Legislature should let King County's stadium taxes expire

Remember the promise to retire the Safeco Field taxes once the stadium was paid for? A bill in the Legislature aims to continue some of those taxes to pay for arts, culture, work-force housing, tourism projects and expanding the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. The right thing to do is to let the taxes expire, as promised.

A .5 percent restaurant sales tax dedicated to paying off the bonds on Safeco Field is expected to expire later this year — four years ahead of schedule. As soon as the bonds are retired, the tax should do as originally promised: terminate.

But that is not what is afoot with state Rep. Tina Orwall's bill in the Legislature. House Bill 1997 would authorize King County to extend the tax in restaurants and bars through 2015 and another tax supporting Safeco, a rental-car tax, for a longer period to pay a variety of worthy causes.

Under the legislation, if the County Council goes along, the money would be redirected to arts, culture, work-force housing, tourism-related projects in Pioneer Square and the International District, and an expansion of the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.

Those are worthwhile endeavors, but our leaders need to grasp the importance of keeping promises.

Extending the sales tax on food and beverages in King County may be fine for the restaurant industry, which originally wanted the earlier end date. But, hold on a minute. The citizens paying the taxes were told the tax would expire. Continuing these taxes in any economic climate is bad faith, but more troubling in the current one.

The legislation would indefinitely extend a rental-car tax helping to pay for Safeco Field that was also scheduled to end once bonds are paid off.

King County Executive Dow Constantine believes the rental and restaurant taxes, as two examples, should continue because they provide money for the county to spur economic activity and create a significant number of new jobs.

Other elected leaders before him agreed to something else. They said the taxes would end once the stadium is paid for.

Safeco Field generated a lot of animosity when it was built because of a frenzy of a ballot measure followed by a legislative emergency to build the stadium. The best way to rebuild public confidence is to fulfill the promise made.

It is part of our culture to see a tax and dream of all the good causes it might pay for if only it continued. Resist the urge, keep the faith, let the taxes expire.

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