Voters’ Stinginess Stings Victims of Abuse and Rape

November 3, 2010; Source: Seattle Times | The impact of Tuesday’s elections on nonprofits isn’t limited to voters’ choices about who they want to run government. In Seattle, for example, the defeat of a ballot measure to increase King County’s sales tax has social service groups fearing they’ll pay for voters’ stinginess.

Without the additional revenue that the tax hike would have provided, more than a dozen agencies that serve domestic-violence and sexual assault victims are facing a $900,000 drop in county support. “There’s nothing to save them,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, chairwoman of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee. “That’s why we wanted to go to the ballot, because we knew that the budget would cut so deeply into those services that keep the public safe and healthy.”

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 1, which would have raised the sales tax two-tenths of a percent, by 56 percent to 46 percent. Any hope of preventing deep cuts to social services rests on the county’s willingness and ability to find savings elsewhere, and at least one official pledges to try to make that happen. Although he opposed the tax hike, Councilman Reagan Dunn said, “I think domestic violence and sexual assault are critical services that need to be, in part, paid for by local government.” Dunn believes that by shelving studies and trimming “pork” from the 2011 budget, the county can restore many services.

Domestic violence groups are already struggling due to limited resources, and further cuts in funding will only make things worse. According to the Seattle Times, 11,137 people called the crisis hotline at the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network in 2009. But the paper reports that for every 23 people requesting emergency shelter the organization turned away 22 because it didn’t have space. Similarly, many who needed counseling or legal assistance ended up on waiting lists or being referred to other agencies.—Bruce Trachtenberg

  • Merril Cousin

    I am the director of a coalition of domestic violence and sexual assault programs in King County WA. I also serve as co-chair of the King County Alliance for Human Services, which is working to secure dedicated, adequate long term public funding for regional community health and human services. While we are disappointed that Proposition 1 did not pass, it is important to recognize that this was NOT a referendum on public funding for human services. Only a small fraction of the income generated by this tax would have funded non-profit community based services; 90% would have gone to government run public safety programs. We do believe that many of these programs are important to the health and safety of our communities, and find the public

  • Michael J. Rosen

    I serve on the board of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, an organization that brings justice and healing to victims of child sexual abuse. So, my heart is definitely with the social service agencies described in the article. However, I think it is absurd to call the taxpayers of King County “stingy.” Perhaps the taxpayers simply want an efficiently run government. The article even quotes one councilman who thinks enough pork can be trimmed from the budget to restore funding to the organizations at issue. So, it sounds to me like the taxpayers won, the social service agencies won, and the local government got more efficient. What’s wrong with that? Not every social ill needs to be addressed with a tax increase!

  • Bruce Trachtenberg

    Dear Merril,
    No intent to suggest the voting public is at fault. Rather just acknowledging one of the side effects of the decision not to approve a tax hike. I couldn’t agree more with your comment: “more than ever, it is critical that non-profit leaders get involved in working for both responsible and responsive government AND tax policies that support the programs and services that keep our communities healthy, safe and strong.”

  • Bruce Trachtenberg

    Dear Michael,
    I hope you are right that everyone won and that the county will find a way to prevent drastic cuts to needed services.

  • Dave C

    Merril, thank you for your more positive spin on this story. It serves no one to call heavily taxed voters in fear of losing their jobs and homes stingy because the author’s favored tax increase wasn’t approved. You might have a point if the measure was specifically designed to support that group, but denigrating the people you are asking to pay the bills is still in bad form. I live in a low tax conservative state, nd I’m a foster paren, sometimes for sexually abused children. When I put my dog in one of these new dangled kennels to go out of town, I pay more to house my dog than the state pays me to take care of a child. That said, the support services available in my city for abuse victims is actually very good. For those of you who think one party is clearly more compassionate, study after study show that conservatives volunteer more time, material and donate far more money to charity than progressives. Progressives have a bad habit of thinking it’s the government’s job, and are far less generous. Look it up. Bruce your first comment below properly backtracks from calling voters stingy, but your second shows a clear bias. Maybe the focus of your article should be on how public service non-profits in the current economic environment need to strike a balance between corporate and private donations, and $$ available from tax authorities, maybe funding from the city, county, and state. Insulting the voters for not giving you their money is petty, and certainly not the message most professionally run non-profits would ever convey to the public.