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Originally published Friday, October 28, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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The Times endorses

Vote "no" on Prop. 1 property-tax increase

King County voters should reject a proposal on the ballot for a property-tax increase to raise money for social services. The request is a...

King County voters should reject a proposal on the ballot for a property-tax increase to raise money for social services. The request is a bait-and-switch version of an earlier idea to increase spending for veterans.

The need to support veterans and provide homeless shelters and other human services is real. But Proposition 1 devolved from a workable idea to a plan mired in political wrangling on the County Council. It became fodder in the council race between Councilman Bob Ferguson and Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds.

Ferguson wanted to increase a property-tax levy that helps veterans. Since 1888 when Civil War veterans streamed into the state, counties have levied a property tax to fund services for former soldiers. That rate is currently less than a penny per $1,000 of assessed home value.

Edmonds supported the idea of a new tax that would provide a dedicated revenue source for human services and veterans.

The proposal that emerged from the County Council was heavily weighted to appease everyone. The six-year levy would increase King County property taxes by 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The average homeowner would pay about $15 annually based on a $300,000 home.

There is a better alternative than the levy.

King County Executive Ron Sims, pronouncing "the era of deficits over," has proposed a $3.4 billion budget that spends the surplus on health care, the homeless, public safety and the environment. Add veterans services to the list of urgent needs.

Since nearly every county official is on record supporting investing more in the needs of veterans, Sims and the council ought to add $1 million to the current $2.1 million operating budget for the county's Veterans Program. That would be an immediate 50-percent increase and would speak volumes about the county's priorities.

In his budget address, Sims warned county officials to reject the temptation to live beyond their means. This is not the time to raise property taxes.

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