Last night, Thursday, Yakima County Sheriff Ken Irwin, joined with Yakima County Prosecutor Jim Hagarty, in giving a joint presentation to the Yakima County Republican Central Committee. The subject of their presentation was the 3/10 of a penny sales tax for law and justice which will be on the November ballot.
This is the same tax that citizens in Yakima County have previously approved, and are already paying. Under the provisions of the tax, it has a sunset clause which means that voters must approve it every six years.
Sheriff Ken Irwin stated that this means if the people do not feel like they are getting their money’s worth, they do not need to keep paying the tax. In this way, they are accountable to the voters for how the money is used.
Irwin said that countywide the tax pays for 35 commissioned law enforcement officers, and an additional 58 support staff. Without the tax revenue from this special sales tax, he said there is no question that layoffs in his department would occur.
Jim Hagarty expressed the same sentiment, saying that all of the assistant prosecutor positions in his office may be cut if the tax is eliminated. That would leave him and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ken Ramm to do all of the prosecutions at the County level.
Noting that both the Sheriff and the Prosecutor are Republicans, County Prosecutor Jim Hagarty said that this is not a partisan issue. He said it is more of a community issue. Hagarty mentioned that he had reached out to the Yakima County Democrats to ask for their support on this issue as well.
The Yakima County Republicans have previously decided to support this measure on the ballot.
Sheriff Irwin also mentioned that even if approved, the voters will have a chance to vote on it again in another six years. In the meantime, he encouraged anyone with questions to visit the Sheriff’s website, or the County Prosecutor’s website to see detailed information about how the money is being spent.
Irwin said that cities receiving funds from this tax will need to do more reporting in the future on how it is being spent on the local level.
Irwin said that about 80% of Yakima County’s budget is devoted to law and justice functions, including the cost of jails, and the courts. Despite this, in the slow economy, it is a struggle to keep everyone on the payroll. He said this tax is important in maintaining 24 hour availability of Sheriff’s deputies in Yakima County.
The City of Sunnyside is currently receiving about $280,000 annually from this law and justice tax. Also, the Lower Valley District Court in Grandview is funded by this tax.
Sunnyside would lose an additional three officers if this tax is eliminated. The current Sunnyside City Council has not endorsed this sales tax for law and justice.
I am supporting the sales tax for law and justice, and if elected, will also work to restore every police officer position that the Sunnyside City Council has cut.