2023 Spokane County Measure 1 FAQs

October 10, 2023

Measure 1 is a Public Safety Sales Tax increase. If approved, this measure would impose an additional 0.2% tax (20¢ from every $100) on transactions within Spokane County. In 2019, Spokane County voters approved a ‘Measure 1,’ implementing a Public Safety Sales Tax rate of 0.1% (10¢ from every $100) that will end in 2029. In the upcoming November General Election, voters in Spokane County will be asked whether to impose the remaining 0.2%, to increase the Public Safety Sales Tax to the maximum allowable rate of 0.3% (30¢ from every $100) until 2054. 

In 2003, the Washington State Legislature established the framework for measures like Measure 1, codified in RCW 82.14.450. This legislation allows local governments to secure additional resources for addressing critical issues in criminal justice and public health. The original intent behind this law was to safeguard the health and safety of Washington residents.

Yes, there are exemptions under Measure 1. The retail sale or use of motor vehicles, as well as the leasing of these vehicles for the first 36 months of a lease agreement, are exempt from the tax imposed by this measure.

The money raised from Measure 1 has specific guidelines for how it can be utilized. One-third goes exclusively for criminal justice purposes, including enhancing police protection, streamlining court systems, addressing homelessness, improving behavioral health services, and alleviating issues related to overcrowded jails and local correctional facilities. The remaining balance shall be used generally for public safety, behavioral health, criminal justice, and correctional purposes, including building and improving jails or other correctional facilities. 

The revenue collected under the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax is distributed between the enacting county and its cities and towns. Counties are entitled to receive 60% of the revenue, while the remaining 40% is distributed proportionally on a per capita basis to the cities within the county.

If Measure 1 is not approved, the Board of County Commissioners retains the option to reintroduce an identical or slightly modified measure in subsequent elections. Additionally, individual cities within the county may propose their own tax propositions to city voters. If such a city proposition is approved by the majority of voters, the tax rate imposed cannot exceed 0.01% (10¢ from every $100). Similar to the county-wide tax, this city tax does not apply to motor vehicle sales and leases for the first 36 months of the lease.

In the case of a city’s criminal justice tax, 85% of the funds raised would be retained by the city itself, while the remaining 15% must be distributed to the county.

If approved, Measure 1 would authorize the county to begin collecting the revenue generated starting April 1, 2024 through December 31, 2054. 

In addition to Spokane County, Stevens, Thurston, and Whatcom Counties have also presented Public Safety Sales Tax increases for voters to consider. Each of these counties have unique approaches to the preparation of their General Election ballot measures. 

  • Whatcom County shared a 100+ page implementation plan based on an extensive needs assessment
  • Stevens and Thurston Counties have followed a path similar to Spokane’s, spending on extensive planning until after the funding is secured

The Spokane County Board of County Commissioners gathered on October 10th for a special hearing to lay out the pros and cons of Measure 1. Citizens were invited to leave their mark on the official record in an open public debate to start the hearing. Both sides had 30 minutes to lay out their case, and then each Commissioner had a chance to share their thinking on the issue. The meeting ended with a 3-2 vote for the Board of County Commissioners to officially support Measure 1. You can watch that video on the County’s official YouTube page, linked here

Spokane Rotary also hosted a debate on Measure 1. Representing the pro-side was Sherriff John Nowels and speaking in opposition to Measure 1 was Commissioner Chris Jordan. That debate is available to view at KXLY, linked here

If you have any additional questions on Measure 1, please contact our Director of Government Affairs, Lukas Garcia, at lukas@spokanevalleychamber.org 


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