Letters to the Editor

Tax Kent businesses that wear down streets

Now that Proposition 1 has been defeated, the message the Kent City Council should get is that the streets-and-roads issue calls for a robust B&O (business and occupation) tax on the businesses in Kent that do the primary damage to the streets and roads.

Homeowners don't drive heavy 16/18-wheelers that gouge the streets and require constant repair.

I live near South 228th and I paid a hefty assessment for construction of that street, which provides cross-city access for huge trucks like those owned by Sysco, which is based on 228th.

But the City Council has yielded for years to Chamber of Commerce pressure, and most Council members resisted imposing a B&O tax that would hold Kent businesses responsible for road/street damage done by their trucks.

The B&O tax is nowhere near the average paid by other Washington cities. In a city that houses one of the largest warehouse districts in the nation, council members would only agree to a pitiful B&O tax to give the impression that the business community was now, finally, doing its fair share. It has avoided doing its fair share for years and now Kent citizens have let city officials know, loud and clear, that the responsible parties are the businesses that tear up our streets – not us in our passenger cars.

Kent homeowners do care about the streets and parks. But we disagree that we are the passive patsies who should carry all the financial responsibility. Suggestion: Maybe Lake Meridian homeowners could do some private fund-raising for repairs to the swimming/fishing dock on their lake.

The exemption categories in the B&O tax's fine print seem to cover every possible business activity: "manufacturing activity" (isn't that what the tax is for?); "research and development" – why not? (does this exempt Boeing?). Exemptions should cover non-profits, but not all these other business/profit-making-enterprise categories. It appears that the chamber's most influential members were able to get their businesses exempted.

We are telling the city, by our votes, that the business community has to really step up to the plate and really pay their fair share.

City Council members need to rethink their priorities and get the Kent business community to contribute responsibly to the city's financial well-being and the health of the city's streets and roads, which they use every day in furtherance of their business interests.

I think Mayor (Suzette) Cooke understands this and has recommended that the Council require broader contribution from the businesses in the Valley. Eliminating some of the broader exemptions would help solve the city's budget issues. Or, the percentage amount per square foot needs to be increased to approach the average for other cities with B&O taxes.

Councilmember Jamie Perry has done the research and presented persuasive arguments to other City Council members regarding the realities of the situation. She's an able advocate and vocal representative for all of Kent's residents.

Thanks, also, to the Kent Reporter for presenting both sides of this issue so citizens and homeowners had the information they needed.

– Sandra Gill

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