Sound Transit’s demands for new taxing authority have become a sticking point in the debate in the legislature over a new transportation package. Sound Transit officials want an estimated $15 billion in new taxing authority. They want a 0.5% increase in Sound Transit’s sales tax authority, to a total of 1.4% (which would bring the total sales tax rate in Seattle to 10.1%), a 0.8% increase in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax authority to a total of 1.1%, and a property tax increase of .25 per $1,000 of assessed value ($100/year on a $400,000 house).
Three elected officials serving on Sound Transit’s Board recently penned an editorial in The Seattle Times calling for a $15 billion increase in regressive taxes to build more light rail. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts and Redmond Mayor John Marchione argue that building light rail is an effective way to reduce carbon emissions and improve mobility.
Senate Bill 5992 is one of eight transportation package reform bills introduced in the state Senate last week. The goal of the reform bill is to reduce the cost of ferries by introducing an open bidding procurement model similar to the proven method that has benefited British Columbian taxpayers.
King County Metro Transit’s vanpool program has finally become operationally self-sufficient. According to the National Transit Database, King County Metro’s vanpool program cost $10,658,554 to operate in 2013. Yet vanpool revenues more than made up for that – users paid about $11.5 million.
Congestion relief is not a priority when state officials spend transportation dollars, but that may soon change. House Bill 1939 would re-establish congestion relief as a transportation policy goal, creating an official relationship between spending and relieving traffic congestion.
Prior to 2007, lawmakers had implemented very specific performance measures that tied spending to measurable benchmarks to provide congestion relief. They were:
It may be the best deal state officials choose to pass up this session, buy two ferries and get one free. It all depends on whether state lawmakers want to leave money on the table when it comes to ferry purchases. According to the Washington State Auditor, Washington taxpayers pay some of the highest costs in the nation to build ferries.
Senate Bill 5550, introduced by State Senators Cyrus Habib (D-48th district) and Joe Fain (R-47th district), would establish state-level regulations on the rideshare industry. Currently, local municipalities regulate the taxicab, for-hire, and rideshare industries, while the state has oversight over limousine services.
After years of debate on whether the ports of Seattle and Tacoma should merge, port officials announced today they have formed a single Seaport Alliance. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, “The Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments plus marketing, planning and operations, while existing government structures, taxing authority and ownership of assets remain in place.”
The news keeps getting better at King County Metro Transit. Metro officials are the beneficiaries of record-breaking sales tax revenues, and are seeing large tax windfalls that were unthinkable just two years ago. Back then, Metro executives assumed their sales tax revenues would grow at a meager pace, and they planned to impose harsh bus cuts in many communities unless they raised taxes. However, a rebounding economy and swelling coffers should allow officials to keep bus service on the road without regressive tax increases.