Politics and personalities clashed at Yakima City Council’s Tuesday meeting and sank a proposed ballot measure that would have asked for a supermajority of five council votes to raise taxes.
The proposed resolution to put a measure before voters in April appeared set to pass with a four-vote majority during a discussion prior to voting. Two of those four council members even said they philosophically agreed with the measure and would vote for it, though they didn’t think the council had abused its taxing authority.
But comments by Councilman Bill Lover, who proposed the measure, prompted Councilwoman Sara Bristol to change her mind, resulting in a 4-3 vote against placing the measure before voters.
“This council has raised taxes more than any council in my memory,” he said during a discussion prior to the vote.
While saying she agreed with the measure in principle, Bristol said she thought Lover proposed the measure in order to split the council.
“He’s trying to paint a picture (of a tax-and-spend council) that I don’t think is reality,” Bristol said.
Councilwoman Kathy Coffey called Lover’s proposal the start of jockeying for next November’s election. Councilmembers Bristol, Coffey, Micah Cawley and Maureen Adkison voted against placing the measure on the ballot, while Councilmen Lover, Rick Ensey and Dave Ettl voted for it.
The two tax increases Lover referenced — a 1 percent general property tax and a utility tax bump to pay for public safety — wouldn’t have been affected by the proposed measure. Each year, a city can increase the amount of money it collects through its general property tax by 1 percent, but state law already requires five yes votes on a seven-person council. The utility tax increase passed in a 5-2 vote.
After the meeting, Lover said he wouldn’t be surprised if residents didn’t push an initiative requiring a supermajority for tax increases.
In November, 68 percent of votes cast in Yakima backed a state initiative requiring a two-thirds majority in the Legislature for any tax increases.