Pierce Pioneer

Pierce County to Greenlight Behavioral Health Sales Tax Increase

 

During a Pierce County council meeting held on December 22, 2020, members approved a 1/10% sales tax increase meant to fund behavioral health services in the near future. As stated on their official site, by a super-majority vote of 5-1, the small tax increase is estimated to generate $12 million a year and aims to reinvest more Medicaid dollars into Pierce County.

Josephine Peterson from the News Tribune mentions how this tax increase has taken three attempts within the last four years to be passed. In March of 2020, Council Vice Chair Dave Morell was the deciding vote which delayed the passing of said increase. “He told Democrats and the large community turnout that he did not feel comfortable voting for a tax increase until a spending plan was in place,” Peterson stated. “The ordinance was [then] tabled.”

The Accountable Care Organization will oversee this distribution, as it is co-sponsored by Morell and council members Derek Young and Connie Ladenburg. Many within the council feel as though behavioral health is a significant issue facing Pierce County residents. “The ACO pilot plan allows for local engagement, ownership and governance, and Pierce County to build a better healthcare system,” Morell said.

Along with distributing Medicaid dollars, the ACO will use the estimated $12 million generated annually to cover health related sectors not covered by the program or Medicaid. Examples of what this could fund include behavioral health education, empowering those who use behavioral health services and training for first responders and criminal justice professionals interacting with people during behavioral crises.

From the News Tribune, Morell shared their personal experiences involving mental health within their own circle. “I’ve learned a lot about behavioral health through family experiences in dealing with issues of addiction with family members and also dealing with a death in the family that was because of an addictive behavior that went on and on and on,” Morell said. “But I also understand that there has to be guardrails in place to protect the taxpayer.”

Pierce County’s official site states that the status of this sales tax increase has since been sent to state executives. “The county finance director has until April 15, 2021 to certify state and federal agency approval of the ACO model,” the site stated. “Once certified the sales tax increase will be collected. The tax collection will cease after Dec. 31, 2027 unless a future Council extends it.”

More news and updates will be provided as this story unfolds.

 

 

Save Metro Parks for Tacoma

Most of us visited to zoos when we were younger, and we remember the animals,

the fun, and the excitement. If you’re from the Tacoma area, the zoo you remember is

probably Point Defiance. We could all say it’s gone a little downhill over the years, along

with other Tacoma parks and facilities. We need to preserve what makes our community

as great as it is, which means buckling down and paying a little more in property taxes.

The Metro Park Bond is asking for $198 million for work and updates needed for

Tacoma’s parks and zoo. People from the Tacoma district who pay $40 per year for every

$100,000 in property value will have to pay an additional $58 on top of the $40. This is a

small price to pay for nice, up-to-date, clean parks.

The Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium’s official website says that some of the

money from the bond will make critical improvement to animal life-support systems. The

money will also be used to replace the failing 51-year-old North Pacific Aquarium with a

modest new Pacific Rim aquarium. The changes planned will improve visitor experience

greatly.

Some people might ask why we should pay more taxes, especially when in 2005 a

bond was approved for $84.3 million. A bond that the people of Tacoma are still paying

off. It’s true they will still be paying the last bond off until 2030, and the new bond (if

accepted), will extend payments until 2042, however, this money is needed to improve

our community parks and zoo. It’s not cheap to renovate and make changes; the funds

from the first bond were only a start. There’s no point of having our pockets full of cash

if we can’t go out into our communities and enjoy our parks and zoo.

Tacoma parks will be greatly enhanced with the approval of this bond. When

Election Day comes up on Earth Day, April 22, think about the future of our community.

Be proud of where you live.

rises taxes propose trouble for commuters

gas prices Valerie Ettenhofer
Staff Writer

Washington State Democrats proposed a ten billion dollar plan to pursue highway projects in late February.

The bill, which is circulating the House of Representatives, would add a total of ten cents of tax to each gallon of gas purchased over the next five years. This would place Washington State, which already has the ninth-highest gas tax in the nation, about 18 cents above the current national average.

Washington’s current tax of 55.9 cents on the gallon [including the federal standard of 18.4 cents per gallon] already has commuters feeling the pain at the pump, and their displeasure at the proposed bill was evidenced in a recent poll.

Pollster Stuart Elway questioned 412 Seattle voters and found that 72 percent opposed the gas tax changes. Of the 28 percent who would accept the gas tax, only 14 percent are directly in favor of the changes.

The tax would go into effect in increments of two cents per year in hopes to raise a total of 2455 million dollars toward road maintenance and improvement causes.

Major projects within the plan include improvements to cyclist safety, road and bridge functionality, ferry systems, state patrol, chemical cleanup and freeway maintenance.

Revenue for all of this will come from other sources as well, including three billion dollars in bonds. However, gas taxes are only one way the plan will ask citizens to pay.

Along with the ten cents per gallon, there will be a 25 dollar fee required for each purchase of a bicycle over 500 dollars. Car tab prices will also increase to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value, a change that was met by 62 percent negativity according to the Elways poll.

Several interest groups expect the transportation plan to cycle through legislature during this session, in hopes of quick implementation of the changes put forth in the plan.

On the other hand, several members of the House do not believe that the plan’s benefits outweigh its costs. According to the Seattle Times, Republicans have indicated that they will push for reform before agreeing to ask citizens for more money.

At a time of increased economic instability and governmental infighting, these changes will likely be debated and questioned throughout Washington in future weeks.

Transit taxes could take their toll

Pierce Transit propose an  increase in sales tax to pay for bus system

Valerie Ettenhofer
Staff Writer

In late June, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners decided upon a change that may have far-reaching consequences for Pierce College students.

After a month of weighing their options, the board members chose to propose a .3% increase in sales tax to local voters in November.

Revenue raised from the tax increase would go towards Pierce Transit, the bus system that many community college students rely on for transportation to classes and even to work. 70% of the bus system runs on sales tax collection.

Bus drivers are likely on board with the changes, although a Fort Steilacoom driver was not allowed to comment.

In the past sixteen months, the bus system’s budget has been cut by 1/3, causing the elimination of some stops and employees and, according to chairwoman Marilyn Strickland, making quality service difficult.

In a recent News Tribune article, Strickland was credited with thinking that “Pierce Transit needs the revenue to provide good bus service, especially for low-income riders, people who are disabled, senior citizens and students”.

Some Pierce College students who use the bus agree.

Returning student Ameer Yarbrough commented, “I think [raising taxes for Pierce Transit] would be smart. I know a lot of those buses aren’t really updated and they’ve been around for a while.”

In simple terms, the proposed tax would force citizens within Pierce Transit lines to pay an extra three cents on every purchase of ten dollars or more.

The Board agreed on that number after contemplating many options by projecting possible scenarios, including the addition of a sunset clause, which would allow the tax to expire after a period of time.

Since the economic recession began in 2008, Pierce Transit has made every effort to save money, cutting 111 million dollars and focusing on getting as many people where they need to be as expediently as possible.

If voters react positively to the change in taxes, it’s possible that the Board could propose an increase to the legal tax limit of .9% by next April.

Members of the community who don’t utilize public transportation may not be happy with any tax increase.

Pierce College student Mike Parlacoski noted that forcing everyone to pay more for the buses would “definitely suck”. He believes that the current transit budget should be enough, saying, “As far as maintaining the buses, if [transit] just did their jobs then they wouldn’t have to make other people pay to keep them clean.”

If the November 6th vote passes, some voters will surely be dissatisfied. Even allowing for the eventual .9% tax, only a fraction of the originally cut budget (28 million dollars a year) will be made available again.

Whether that means that a higher tax should be put into effect or that the transit system should adapt to a lower budget is up to voters to decide.

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