By a 5-4 vote yesterday afternoon, the King County Council voted to adopt a Metro funding plan that would implement the first round of scheduled cuts in September, but would defer adopting further cuts in the hope that increased sales tax revenues, higher fares, transfers from capital funds, and additional savings could close the gap. King County Executive Dow Constantine immediately vetoed the plan:
“We need a reliable way to pay for bus service – but until then, we shouldn’t spend money we don’t have, we shouldn’t use one-time money to pay ongoing expenses, and decisions to save or cut service should be based on objective criteria and data, not on politics,” said Executive Constantine. “This ordinance falls short on all counts. I must respectfully veto this legislation, and ask that the Council keep working on a solution that is responsible and sustainable.”
Council member Rod Dembowski spearheaded the plan along with the four suburban Republicans, and no doubt his intentions are pure. His objective is to avoid unnecessary pain. The problem is, without substantial additional revenue, much of the pain will be unavoidable. And by putting off the decision as long as possible, we risk lulling voters and Metro riders into a state of complacency.
The anti-Prop 1 folks like to promote this meme that new revenue is unnecessary—that if Metro just tightens its belt a bit, everything will be okay. For example, yesterday the Seattle Times editorial board urged Metro to “begin the hard work of reforming the agency,” once again ignoring the fact that in response to collapsing revenue and a state performance audit, Metro has implemented substantial reforms that achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in long term cost savings.
The Demobowski plan, unfortunately, just feeds into this fiction that Metro has a spending problem, not a revenue one.
The other Democrats on the council proposed an alternative plan that would have adopted the proposed cuts, phased in over the next year and a half or so, but would have also given Constantine the flexibility to delay cuts if revenues rebound or cost savings materialize. That seems like a more responsible approach to long term planning, and a more realistic presentation to the public of what most likely lies in store.