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May 4, 2010 at 11:47 AM

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Business groups urge Seattle leaders not to raise taxes

Posted by Emily Heffter

Almost 30 business groups held a news conference Tuesday morning in Fremont to publicly urge the Seattle mayor and council to look for cost efficiencies before they raise taxes.

The city faces a $15 million mid-year cut this year, plus a $56 million shortfall for 2011.

Former Mayor Wes Ulhman said the city is going to have to lay off employees to balance next year's budget. That would still be better than raising business taxes, which could drive employers out of town.

"We can, simply, make government leaner and more efficient," he said. "We're not going to tax ourselves out of a recession."

The group didn't offer many specifics. They said the city should ask employees where efficiencies might be found, see whether money could be saved on purchasing or by eliminating redundant services, for example.

In a letter to the mayor, the business organizations -- including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Seattle Association, neighborhood chambers, the Washington Restaurant Association, and other groups -- write that in the face of economic struggles facing employers, the city shouldn't raise parking taxes or reinstate the head tax.

There are no specific tax proposals on the table, but those are two of the taxes being bandied about at City Hall.

While the letter's signers don't support new taxes, George Allen, of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, said they do support the city's commitment not to cut into public safety.

Does that mean, a reporter asked, that city leaders can count on business leaders' support if they have to reduce library hours or cut popular programs like parks?

"If we are all part of the process, we are all part of the remedies," Allen said.

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Jim Brunner
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