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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Criminal justice tax approved

Spokane County voters were narrowly approving a proposition to increase the local sales tax to support criminal justice and public safety Tuesday.

The 0.1 percent sales-tax increase will cost consumers an additional $1 on a $1,000 purchase and raise about $6 million a year. It appeared to be passing late Tuesday night, with 52 percent supporting it and 48 percent opposing it, though thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted.

It would bring Spokane County’s sales tax to 8.5 percent.

The money will be split between Spokane County and cities and towns within its borders, based on population. Two-thirds is to be used for public safety and the remainder for criminal justice. But local officials haven’t identified specific uses for the funds.

That’s what turned off Spokane Valley voter M. Hill, who cast his ballot against the measure Tuesday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. “I’m very reluctant to give to politicians money if they don’t tell me how it’s going to be spent,” Hill said.

Spokane County Sheriff Mark Sterk proposed that the money be used to update the communications system used by his department and other law enforcement and fire departments, but other local officials have not committed to that plan.

The money could also be used to pay for additional law enforcement officers, to build jail space or for courts.

There was no campaign for or against the tax issue, and many voters said that they didn’t know a lot about it.

Shawn Harris said he voted against the criminal justice tax increase because he doesn’t like the way police decline to respond to calls on some crimes.

The sales tax already is high, he said on his way out of the polling place at Madison Elementary School on the North Side. “The next thing you know, we’ll be paying nine cents on a dollar tax,” he said.