We’d like to think this was the plan all along, a master stroke of political gamesmanship.
Mayor Harry Kim, it turns out, quite possibly pulled a rope-a-dope worthy of Muhammad Ali.
Kim told the County Council Wednesday that the revenue raised from a potential half-cent general excise tax surcharge would give the county twice what was originally thought thanks to some recent, diligent number crunching by the state.
Instead of $25 million, the county would net nearly $50 with the proposed tax increase, which is in the hands of the County Council to pass or not, assuming a bill in the Legislature extending the deadline for counties to implement the surcharge passes.
We assume it will, meaning the County Council has until June 30 to decide. If they pass it, it will go into effect Jan. 1
That’s just too much money for the county to turn down. So plump is the new windfall — if that’s the proper word for a recalculated sum — it lets the County Council off the hook by softening the blowback they’ll get after passing it despite it being an election year.
So far, council members have talked tough over the last year about not burdening citizens with an increase. A council subcommittee even forwarding a negative recommendation by a vote of 6-3 to the full County Council earlier this year.
Yet the full council had a chance to kill the proposal outright but instead chose to kick the matter down the road to be decided later.
As luck would have it, the new figures were released weeks before the mayor’s May 5 deadline to pass the county’s $515.7 million budget. It’s a budget that took cutting to balance, and items Kim pointed out that the $50 million could fund were items that are on the pending budget’s cutting room floor, such as increased police and fire protection and homeless programs, among other items.
Visitors, residents, start budgeting accordingly, because this measure is going to sail through. It might not be right, it might not be fair, but in the practical world, it’s simply too much moola to turn down given the circumstances. The only intriguing part at this point is how much song and dance is discussed beforehand.
And in fairness, the difference in the amount the county would be expected to receive is due to more accurate calculations by the state Department of Taxation stemming from new software that better tracks the source of the taxes, according to county Finance Director Deanna Sako.
That’s perfectly logical and probable.
Still, a sliver of us believes the wily Kim softened us by playing possum with the $25 million figure as the county kicked the yes-or-no vote down the road, then he turned and struck lightning quick with the $50 million hammer.
Lights out, fight’s over.
This tax is going to pass.