Washington Policy Center's statement on the defeat of King County Metro's Proposition 1

April 23, 2014

Failure of the measure does not mean people want bus service cuts

Contact: Lisa Shin
(206) 937-9691
lshin [at] washingtonpolicy [dot] org

Seattle – Yesterday the people of King County soundly rejected increasing regressive taxes to provide more money to Metro transit, but that does not mean they want to cut bus services in local communities, as County leaders are threatening. 

When County leaders and labor executives gathered last December to announce Proposition 1, they presented the people with a stark choice: vote for increases in regressive taxes or see harsh bus services cuts in local communities. 

Voters rejected that reasoning.  Many voters saw Proposition 1 as offering a false choice.  “The lesson from the defeat of Proposition 1 is that people don’t want increases in regressive taxes and they want King County leaders to maintain local bus services,” said Bob Pishue, Transportation Director at Washington Policy Center.

The Seattle Times reports today that King County Executive Dow Constantine said, “There are no other options but to cut service.”  But there are other options:

  • This year Metro is collecting more sales tax revenue than ever, reaping a windfall of at least $32 million in 2013.
  • Next year Metro expects its tax collections to hit another record high, topping $496 million in revenue.
  • In December Metro’s most powerful union rejected a generous contract offer.  Ongoing negotiations offer an opportunity for union executives and Metro managers to work together to save bus service in local communities.
  • The Municipal League of King County has recommended that Metro work to lower costs, and keep future cost growth at the rate of inflation. The Municipal League also recommended other actions Metro officials could take to keep bus service on the road.

Elected leaders and union executives are no doubt disappointed that people rejected their ballot proposal to increase regressive taxes, but they should not respond by imposing harsh service cuts on local communities.

As King County Councilmember Phillips rightly points out, tough cuts would gut our transit system: “The people who will be hurt most are those with no other options – people working in low wage jobs – often at odd hours, people with disabilities, students, and the elderly.”

“Elected leaders should use rising revenue, start an open dialogue with union executives and consider helpful recommendations from the Municipal League to improve budget management at Metro, without stripping public services from the people in our communities who need them most,” Pishue said.