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Seattle Mayor Burgess signs city's $5.6 billion budget for 2018 and gives farewell address

Outgoing Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess signed Seattle’s $5.6 billion budget for 2018 on Wednesday.  (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - Outgoing Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess signed Seattle’s $5.6 billion budget for 2018 on Wednesday. But, not before he levied comments critical of his fellow councilmember and the budget process.

Burgess boasted about one portion of the legislation he was especially proud of: the budget establishes a Seattle Retirement Savings Plan for an estimated 200,000 Seattleites who don’t have access to a workplace retirement savings plan.

Just like a typical retirement plan, participants can dedicate a percentage of their wages into the plan and choose how those funds can be invested. The plan is expected to become available in 2019.

Burgess said the rancor during recent city council meetings recently needs to change.

“If it continues to deteriorate, if it continues to be who can out-shout the other, who can call people the worst names, kind of what we see on the far right nationally - is what we see on the far left in Seattle,” said Burgess. “It’s not helpful and it’s not the way to govern a city."

The council increased spending on homeless services and affordable housing initiatives from $63 million, to the $67 million Burgess had proposed two months ago. It also left in funding for the controversial sweeps of unsanctioned homeless encampments.

The 2017 One Night Count said there were just over 4,000 people living without shelter in Seattle. The new budget numbers pencil out to $16,750 per unsheltered person in Seattle.

Council Member Mike O’Brien, who sponsored an unsuccessful attempt of an employee hours tax, said the calculation is an over-simplification of the money about to be spent.

“Yes, there’s 4,000 people, you do the math it's easy,” said O’Brien. “But we are actually housing thousands and thousands of people every year and we are getting thousands and thousands entering homelessness."

He said the city and county transitioned 7,500 people into housing over the last year, but higher housing costs without higher wages are forcing more people into homelessness.

Burgess is retiring from city government on Tuesday, when Mayor-Elect Jenny Durkan will be sworn into office at 3:00 p.m.

Burgess spent 10 years on the city council before accepting the request by the council to become mayor in September, following the resignation of Ed Murray and Council President Bruce Harrell's refusal to give up his council seat to serve out the remainder of Murray’s term.

Burgess also took advantage of the budget signing on Wednesday to give his farewell address. He found it appropriate to limit it to 71 words since he held office for only 71 days.

He thanked everyone for the opportunity to serve as mayor, and touted a new budget, a new school agreement, police reform and greater accountability in spending as achievements.

Burgess ended his remarks by saying ,“We achieved all of that and more in 71 days, over to you Mayor Durkan and Happy Thanksgiving Seattle."

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