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House approves extension of King County stadium taxes

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This notice popped up in the Seattle Times today sourced by the Associated Press. Not exactly your best piece of reporting since whoever wrote it left quite a bit up to interpretation.

Is the Legislature and the King County Council trying to hijack this revenue stream for other uses or is it the first step toward a renovated Husky Stadium and Key Arena?

The state House wants to extend some taxes that paid for professional sports stadiums in Seattle.

Right now, the taxes on restaurant sales and rental cars are supposed to expire after the football and baseball stadiums are paid off. A bill approved 54-42 by the House on Thursday would keep the taxes going longer, with the money flowing into a special account to pay for housing projects, the arts and other programs.

The account is not supposed to be a source for a new NBA arena or Husky Stadium.

The restaurant tax would eventually expire. A third tax on hotel rooms also would flow into the special account.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

So step number one is the House has voted to extend the taxes after the pro stadiums are paid off.  Step number two is the state Senate has to sign off on it before the end of the session to continue the tax. I get those two key parts and it represents significant progress.

What is curiously worded is the sentence that states the account (tourist tax dollars) are not supposed to be a source for a new NBA arena or renovated Husky Stadium.

The original intent of the tax the way it is written is to pay for Safeco and Qwest. which just happen to be sports stadiums. It would take some sort of amendment to change that specific use. The first step however is extending the tax and we are half way there.

What is also a little interesting is the statement that the money would be used to pay for housing projects, the arts, and other projects. The whole idea of the tax was it was to be paid mostly by out of the area visitors (tourists). Applying it to sports stadiums makes sense because it would help support the restaurants and hotels that are generating the taxes by attracting more visitors which would mean more potential revenue for the mechanism that is raising the taxes.

If the Senate does prove the extension the next step is to decide what it is going to be used for. It can't be added to the general fund. It can only be used in King County because that is where the funds are being raised. If they tried to do otherwise I don't think it would stand up in court if challenged.

The question is who is going to decide how those funds are going to be used? Will the authority remain in the State Legislature or will it be shifted to the King County Council?

Politics is a tricky business and it would be interesting to hear UW athletic director Scott Woodward's view on this latest move. Is it a step in the right direction or just a blatant move to hijack the revenue for other uses.