Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn presented his 2014 budget proposal yesterday. In a speech before the Seattle City Council, he outlined a plan to boost spending for a host of government programs — from police staffing to universal preschool.
McGinn said the city is in a position to spend more because tax revenues are coming in stronger than expected. “Construction remains strong, our sales tax and real estate excise tax are exceeding forecasts," he said. "That means we can make new investments in our people and our infrastructure.”
According to McGinn, that's a big change from when he first took office in 2010, when unemployment was at 9.9 percent. During the recession, the city was forced to draw down its so-called Rainy Day Fund and to make tens of millions of dollars in cuts to its budget.
Now, Seattle has one of the strongest job markets in the country, and McGinn said the city is in a position to replenish its reserves. “I can report to you that by the end of 2014 with this budget we will have rebuilt the Rainy Day Fund, not just to pre-recession levels but to a record level of $34.7 million," he said to applause.
McGinn is also proposing spending increases on a number of city programs. His budget would add 15 more police officers to the force. It would increase spending on roads and sidewalks, as well as programs serving senior citizens, victims of domestic violence and homeless people.
He is also proposing an additional $500,000 to expand early learning programs and to advance a universal preschool program in the city.
The mayor's budget now goes to the City Council, where it will be thoroughly scrutinized. Council budget chair Tim Burgess said the proposal shows McGinn “certainly wants to open up the checkbook.”
According to Burgess, McGinn’s proposal amounts to a 7 percent increase in spending over the 2013 city budget, and it would take the city’s general fund to over $1 billion a year for the first time ever, he said.
“And that may be appropriate, but our job is to ask the tough questions and to make sure these are the wisest and most effective uses of these dollars,” Burgess said.
The budget deliberations will take place in the final weeks of what has been a heated mayoral election campaign. A majority of the council, including Burgess, has endorsed the mayor’s opponent, state Senator Ed Murray. The council will hold public hearings on the budget on October 3 and 24.