What King County voters say about $1.25 billion crisis care center levy
King County residents vote this week on a tax levy to help people struggling with mental health issues. If it passes, the new property tax could raise up to $1.25 billion to fund the construction of five new crisis care centers.
Voters were split at a drive-through ballot drop box at King County elections headquarters in Renton.
County Executive Dow Constantine said the “community-based care facilities” are needed to “replace the large, archaic asylums that closed many decades ago.”
At the drop box in Renton, Loren Ballard agreed that the new facilities are needed. His “yes” vote is also deeply personal.
“I have an adult son in his 40s who has suffered from bipolar for years and can't work any longer,” he said.
“I remember going through all the stuff when he was younger with health care workers saying, ‘We have no beds unless he's willing to hurt himself or someone else,’” Ballard said.
RELATED: King County has no walk-in mental health crisis centers. This levy aims to change that
Julie Zetterberg Sardo, who also voted in favor of the levy, said the new facilities would make the community a better place to live.
“It's like voting for schools when you don't have children. This is not a problem that my husband and I have. But we recognize that it is a problem,” she said.
On the other side, voters expressed concern for those who need help, but also voiced worries about taxes.
“For me and my mom to be working class and to have more of that property tax added on and no benefit to us … it's just kind of hard,” voter Marc Rac said.
Jason Kwong also voted no on a new tax. “I feel like it is too much, and I don't see how it changes things,” he said.
The levy would hike property taxes by more than $120 per year on a median-priced home. This year, King County property taxes have already gone up over 6% overall, compared to last year.
Crystal Fincher, a political consultant, said many people do have concerns about raising property taxes, especially in a state with a regressive tax code and no income tax.
“People are squeezed, inflation has been hurting people, housing prices [are up], and we're limited in this state for what revenue options we have available,” she said.
Given all that, Fincher anticipates voters in some cities will vote against this tax levy, especially in rural areas in southeast King County. But Fincher said she expects many voters countywide to support the levy.
“I think that people are fed up enough, and recognize this as a need enough, who are willing to swing that $10 dollars a month to make this happen,” she said.
The last time voters rejected a King County tax levy measure of any kind was 2017.