Yakima County’s prosecutor and sheriff will ask voters to replace a law and justice sales tax due to expire this year with a permanent version.
On Tuesday, Prosecutor Joe Brusic and Sheriff Bob Udell received unanimous support from Yakima County commissioners to replace the tax with one that doesn’t sunset after five years.
“I am personally in support of the permanent extension of the 0.3% tax because the failure of progressive policies coming out of Olympia have harmful, immediate and lasting impacts on our residents who deserve a safe Yakima County to call home,” said Commissioner Amanda McKinney.
“Our residents are frustrated with a perceived lack of accountability and consequences for those who commit crime.”
The tax — known as three-tenths — is 0.3% and generates about $13 million annually. Cities and towns across the county also receive a share to help support police, courts and corrections.
The measure will be on the November ballot. Voters approved the measure in 2015 with an overwhelming 74%.
Brusic said the tax is vital to maintaining services at current levels countywide.
“Without it, our lives in Yakima County would be immeasurably changed,” he told commissioners during their regular business meeting Tuesday morning.
“It’s not just law enforcement — this goes to the entire law and justice system,” he said.
Brusic said he’d lose at least six deputy prosecutors if the measure fails. That doesn’t include the Office of Assigned Counsel, the Sheriff’s Office and other agencies throughout the county.
“This isn’t giving us more but allowing us to maintain what we have,” he said. “These jobs and things would go away without this financial support. We can’t imagine this not being available to us.”
“Without the three-tenths, the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office would be in dire straits and if we’re in dire straits, so is Yakima County,” he said.
Yakima County Financial Service Director Craig Warner said law and justice services account for 82% of Yakima County’s annual $70 million general fund budget, the highest percentage in the state.
That amount doesn’t include funding from the law and justice tax, he said.