Franklin County voters said no to a public safety tax that would have helped pay for a jail expansion, a new police station and other needed infrastructure fixes.
A similar measure failed in 2002.
We understand the first reaction to the idea of most taxes is "no," especially here in Eastern Washington. But something has got to give, especially at the jail. It is overcrowded to the point that the federal government could someday step in and mandate changes, at the expense of Franklin County.
County residents all know the once-sleepy area has exploded in population in the past 10 years. More people require more police and a bigger station to house the officers and their equipment. And a bigger jail. It's a numbers game, after all.
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Public safety should be the No. 1 concern of residents. If your hometown is not a safe place to live, little else matters. Crime has a negative trickle-down effect on everything from the school system to the retail sector.
But voters said no to the 0.3 percent sales tax increase, a minor amount on almost any purchase. (Autos would have been exempted.)
Unlike a property tax, the cost would have been spread across those just visiting town and using taxpayer-funded services like sports fields and other facilities as well as those who reside in Franklin County full time.
It seemed like a fair way to find money for improvements to public safety.
We can all agree that Yakima has a serious problem with crime. Headlines are frequently led by shootings in that nearby city. Voters renewed a public safety tax there by more than 78 percent in the recent election. The voters know there is work to be done and money is needed to wage the battle against crime.
You may say Franklin County is no Yakima when it comes to crime. But many of us can remember a day when Pasco had a deserved reputation as a very scary place. During the recent campaign, city leaders and law enforcement repeatedly brought up the major strides that have been made in the past 20 years in reducing crime in Pasco.
We're disappointed that voters didn't see the importance of the improvements the tax would have helped pay for. Now, city and county leaders will be forced to look elsewhere for money. And voters may not like where they find it.