Yakima County Sheriff, Prosecutor, Talk Sales Tax With Republicans

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.

Additional Information:

Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney

Yakima County Sheriff’s Office

Sunnyside Police Department Sales Tax Annual Report

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About Jason R. Raines
Councilmember, City of Sunnyside, Father of Three; U.S. Army Veteran; all views expressed are my own.

3 Responses to Yakima County Sheriff, Prosecutor, Talk Sales Tax With Republicans

  1. Jim Restucci says:

    Jason, as far as I know no City Council has endorsed this sales tax as of this date, and it’s not because they don’t support it, it’s because it hasn’t come up on their respective agendas yet; however the Mayor’s and Mayor’s Pro Tem received a briefing from Jim Hagarty last month at our meeting, and we received another briefing from Sheriff Irvin at the YVCOG General Membership meeting this past Wednesday.

    I would imagine much like the last time, that they will wait till it gets closer to the election before endorsing, so that it is fresh in the minds of the voters.

    As the only member of our Council who endorsed the first go-round of this legislation in 2004, I can tell you that I wholeheartedly support this tax, and I am sure my colleagues do as well.

    You should also make note that the sunset is actually not until 2011; however because of the importance of this tax revenue, the County has decided to place it on this years ballot.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jim.

      The Yakima City Council endorsed this measure at its August 18th meeting. I know that the Sunnyside City Council has been briefed on this already, but has not endorsed it.

      I am generally opposed to taxes, but the accountability built into this one is a big selling point. The sunset clause lets voters decide if it is worth continuing, and annual reports provide documentation to the public as to how it is being spent.

      You are correct in pointing out that the actual sunset will be another year from now. Having it on the ballot now, allows everyone effected to make adjustments without any surprises at the last minute, should the tax renewal fail.

      Thank you for your service on the Council, and supporting this worthwhile tax that funds law and justice in our community.

  2. Jim Restucci says:

    Jason thanks for the update, I wasn’t aware that Yakima had endorsed it. I did speak to Mayor Belton of Toppenish and he said that it was coming on his agenda, I am assuming all Council’s will do as they did before and endorse it closer to the election.

    I plan to introduce this as an Agenda item at a future Council meeting.

    Thanks again for the heads up.

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