Goldy has the details.
With the Washington State Legislature proving absolutely incapable (unwilling?) of addressing our transportation needs, King County Executive Dow Constantine is rolling out a proposal that would ask voters to approve $130 million a year in new local taxes to avert a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service, while providing additional money to maintain deteriorating city and county roads. Constantine will also ask the county council to approve a new low-income fare category—$1.50 per trip—that would provide a substantial discount to as many as 100,000 Metro riders who are struggling to cope with recent fare increases.
Rather than the more progressive motor vehicle excise tax (MVET)—a tax on the value of your car—that Olympia had promised King County but never delivered, Constantine is proposing raising revenue under the county’s existing but unused Transportation Benefit District (TBD) authority. The TBD would raise a combined $130 million in 2015; $80 million from a $60 annual vehicle license fee (VLF), and $50 million from a 0.1 percent increase in the county sales tax. (The $60 VLF would come after the current $20 “congestion relief charge” expires in June, so vehicle owners would only see a net $40 annual increase in their car tabs bill.) Sixty percent of the money raised would go toward filling a projected $75 million a year shortfall in Metro revenues, with the remaining 40 percent going toward city and county roads, allocated based on population.
The election to decide that will come up pretty soon, so that might be more interesting than whatever is happening, or not happening, in the legislature. I wonder if the opposition to the license fee will be out in as much force as it was in the Seattle election a few years ago. I hope it turns out better. Will the people who opposed it because it was regressive but haven’t lifted a finger to push Olympia for a better option be out again?
Will the promise of a lower bus fare make this package more progressive, so easier to swallow? In that election, there were vague promises that City Light would look into better rates for lower income people to offset some of the problems with the flat rate license fee. In this package, the lower rates are baked in. Goldy didn’t mention it in the piece and I forgot to ask him at Drinking Liberally, but I wonder what the mechanism will be for enforcing the different rate. It seems intrusive to have to prove that you deserve rate, but maybe it wouldn’t be. And with ORCA Cards, it’s probably a bit easier to just bloop the thing (THE TECHNICAL TERM) than to have to show a separate pass. Of course lower income people are probably less likely to have ORCA Cards, by and large.