King County officials are weaving their way through some gnarly political traffic.
Should they cut Metro transit routes despite growing ridership? Or convince voters to raise taxes and car tab fees? If the Legislature doesn’t pass a transportation package that lets them do this, will they have to resort to an old law that allows them to go it alone, but raise less revenue?
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom outlines the region’s pending bus funding crisis in this news side story. Here’s one of the big reasons folks are so wary of inching toward 10 percent sales tax per $100 spent by consumers:
According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), the poorest fifth of Washington state households pay 17 percent of their income in state and local taxes, while the richest fifth pay less than 7 percent. Those are statewide averages, so the disparity grows in urban Puget Sound, where transit sales taxes are higher.
“(In) a state that is already clearly the most regressive in the nation, amazingly you’d have localities where it is more regressive,” said Matt Gardner, ITEP executive director.
“In fairness, there aren’t a lot of other choices available to lawmakers in Washington,” said Gardner.
Lawmakers appear no closer to a transportation deal, so it’s understandable why officials are antsy to get something before voters in 2014. Cuts are slated to begin next summer. By the time the next legislative session begins in January, the political waters may be too charged for lawmakers to vote on increasing taxes and fees. And even if the state legislature does pass a transportation package that includes local options for counties, a possible referendum may delay implementation of the law till after the November 2014 elections — a less-than-ideal scenario for transit planners.
So let’s get a sense of what readers think about the county’s Plan A and Plan B. Click below the jump to vote in our poll. As first reported in Lindblom’s story, here is The Seattle Times’ description of those two options:
King County would need the Legislature’s permission to send county voters a proposed car-tab tax of $150 per $10,000 vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit and 40 percent among county, suburban and Seattle road funds.
The county would go it alone under the 2007 transportation-benefit-district law. That could mean sending voters a proposed sales-tax increase of 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent for transit, and a flat car-tab fee of $60 or $80 for roads.
Now vote in our poll:
Also note that there are other funding options. As first reported by The Atlantic Cities’ Eric Jaffe , the Victoria Transport Policy Institute released a report last month analyzing 18 local options for funding transit, including gas taxes, more advertising, increased rider fares, etc. Here’s a link to the PDF file of that research. Below, I’ve pasted the report’s options summary, including advantages and disadvantages. The next step is to figure out whether King County Metro has figured in all these ideas.