Lawmaker wants to take $518 million intended for kids and vulnerable populations - and give it to Sound Transit

By MARIYA FROST  | 
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Apr 6, 2017

Yesterday, House leaders cancelled floor debate on their transportation budget proposal because Republicans prepared a series of budget amendments that would require Sound Transit to stop overvaluing vehicles and collecting billions in car tab overcharges.  

Some speculate the cancellation occurred because House Democrats, who say they want to reform Sound Transit, did not have the votes they needed to kill the amendments that would actually reform Sound Transit.

Others speculate lawmakers are thinking of adopting an idea from one Democratic senator, which would lower car tab fees, and would take $518 million in sales tax money for education and give it to Sound Transit.

The proposed striking amendment to Senate Bill 5893 would switch all car tab fees to the slightly lower depreciation schedule, but would also enable lawmakers to dip into the Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account. The account was created in 2015 to fund:

“…educational services to improve educational outcomes in early learning, K-12, and higher education including, but not limited to, for youths that are low-income, homeless, or in foster care, or other vulnerable populations.”

According to The Seattle Times, although funds go to counties in the Sound Transit taxing district, King County expects to receive more than half of the funds, or about $300 million. However, rather than making “preschool more affordable” or “keeping homeless children in their neighborhood schools” or “helping foster kids go on to college” or filling “gaps for some really vulnerable students” – some lawmakers seem more concerned with Sound Transit’s financial welfare, despite the public outcry from their own constituents.

This is a curious and disappointing amendment from a legislator who just recently said that “we should not balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable.”

Lawmakers can increase public trust by eliminating Sound Transit’s unfair vehicle valuation method and reducing car tab taxes. Giving Sound Transit a $518 million-dollar reward for overcharging taxpayers, to the detriment of kids and our most vulnerable populations, would have the exact opposite effect.