Mayor Jenny Durkan Disappointed in Council’s Irresponsible Vote to Create Budget Shortfall & Cut Funding for Vital Low-Income Programs

Mayor Durkan: “Because Council has refused to fund these vital programs or put forward a balanced plan, I will veto this bill.” 

Council Legislation Changes Use of Short-Term Rental Tax and Sweetened Beverage Tax Revenue, Directly Eliminating Funding for Fresh Bucks, the Child Care Assistance Program for Low-Income Families and the Nurse Family Partnership, Which Provides Health Care to Low-Income Women Who Are Pregnant 

Council Staff Warned in July 8 Memo “Programs Where [Sweetened Beverage Tax] Revenues Were Used…Could Be Reduced or Eliminated As A Result of This Legislation, Barring Other Budget Cuts or Creation of New Revenue” 

Seattle (July 22, 2019) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today expressed her disappointment in the City Council’s vote to pass legislation that creates a significant hole in the City’s budget and cuts funding for critical low-income programs. By redirecting money for unknown new City of Seattle programs, the City Council’s plan eliminates funding for programs they previously approved that provide nutrition assistance, child care for struggling families, and nursing care for low-income pregnant women. Despite voting for this funding last year, City Council’s plan now cuts funding committed to these programs without identifying the millions in other funds or cuts needed to continue these critical safety net services.  

The Mayor also committed to vetoing the legislation in the coming days. 

Members of the Council’s own Central Staff had warned Councilmembers in a July 8 memo that “[p]rograms where [Sweetened Beverage Tax] revenues were used to supplant General Fund resources could be reduced or eliminated as a result of this legislation, barring other budget cuts or creation of new revenue sources to backfill the removal of SBT funds.” 

“I am disappointed that despite the warnings of their own staff, City Council is creating a budget gap of more than $7 million. Because Council has refused to fund these vital programs or put forward a balanced plan, I will veto this bill. I appreciate Councilmember Pacheco for putting forth his amendment, and Councilmember Bagshaw for supporting it, which would have protected these vital programs from cuts in 2020, and I’m disappointed that the Council rejected it,” said Mayor Durkan. “I will not turn my back on the Seattle residents who count on these programs. Our City’s budget is required to be balanced, and no CEO, small business owner, or president of a nonprofit can commit to funding new programs without knowing how they pay for it. The Council wants to run up charges, and have someone else pay the bill. Unfortunately, it lands directly on those most in need.” 

Council Bills 119402 and 119551 would change the City of Seattle budget practices and Short-term Rental Tax (STR) and Sweetened Beverage Tax (SBT) revenues by defunding programs that rely on those revenues to support existing programs and then dedicate the revenue to unspecified new program spending.  

At the same time, because the City’s revenue forecast continues to show little new revenue in coming years, the Council has failed to identify other areas for funding reductions.  

The City’s Budget Director, Ben Noble, outlined these concerns in a June 26 note to Council, writing that “the policy proposals imbedded in Council Bills 119402 and 119551 are only half measures” that could “redirect funding without answering the question of what must be cut to make this redirection possible.”

As part of last fall’s budget process, the Council approved funding appropriations for both 2019 and 2020 that including using $9.4 million to support education, health care and child care. With these resources and an additional reallocation of REET revenues, the City expanded its ongoing investments in homelessness services. The Mayor proposed, and the Council approved 8-1, this budget approach to address the crisis. Council could have voted differently; it could have given community groups more warning. It chose not to do so. 

Without a new funding proposal by Council, the Council-approved legislation would eliminate funding for the following City-supported programs: 

  • Fresh Bucks: More than 750 households would lose access to Fresh Bucks vouchers, which constitutes a $40 per month benefit for food insecure households. 
  • Food Banks: Reduction of 96,341 food bank visits and 11,201,010 pounds of food distributed.   
  • Senior Meals: 548 older adults in Seattle will not receive home delivered meals and 2,601 seniors in Seattle will not receive congregate nutrition services. 
  • Children’s Nutrition: 178 children would not be served in the farm to table Program and 720 meals would not be served to students during out of school time. 
  • Child Care Assistance Program: Providing child care for over 1,200 children in 2020, CCAP helps families who would not be able to cover the high cost of care in the city.  
  • Parent Child Home Program: This year, 251 children have been visited through the research based Parent Child Home Program, which is helping to build school readiness.
  • Nurse Family Partnership: This funding supports a team of 16 Public Health nurses who serve 450 low-income women who are pregnant with their first child. The Public Health nurses also support first time mothers from prenatal to toddler age.