I’m trying to generate the appropriate outrage at the Seattle Times editorial board for endorsing a “No” vote on King County’s Metro-saving Proposition 1, but then it’s kinda like raging at my dog for killing squirrels. It’s what she does. It’s her nature. And reading this editorial is like watching the editors chase a squirrel.
VOTERS should weigh the regressive tax request embedded in King County Proposition 1 against history.
Oh no! It’s a “regressive” tax! This from an editorial board that has opposed every single progressive tax (like, you know, on income or estates) that has come before it. What a bunch of fucking concern trolls.
The pattern is clear. As in previous rounds of asking taxpayers for more money, Metro sees its shortfall as a revenue problem, rather than thoroughly confronting its well-documented unsustainably high operating costs.
And since the pattern is so “clear” and these unsustainably high operating costs are so “well-documented,” we can presume the editors are about to clearly document them.
Voters also should consider the near future when they face many other ballot requests, from parks to city transportation. Tax fatigue could jeopardize crucial investments such as public prekindergarten.
Yes, please consider the other future tax measures the Seattle Times will endorse “No” on. For the children!
When Washington voters in 1999 approved Initiative 695, it wiped away a vehicle excise tax that gave the King County Metro system about one-third of its revenues.
In response, King County leaders asked voters for a 0.2 percent increase in the county sales tax “to preserve and improve our bus system,” promising 575,000 more hours of bus service, as the 2000 voter pamphlet read. Voters said yes. Over the next six years, they got only 203,000 hours of new bus service.
Yes, voters did approve I-695. But not Seattle and King County voters. We rejected it. Also, the MVET that I-695 wiped away was the most progressive tax in the most regressive tax system in the nation. But I don’t remember the fucking concern trolls at the Seattle Times shedding any tears over that.
In 2006, King County leaders again asked for a 0.1 percent sales tax increase, to fund Rapid Ride expansion. Voters said yes. The promised expansion is behind schedule, and in spots is not the superfast service promised.
And in 2008 the nation plunged into the Great Recession, taking Metro’s sales tax revenue with it.
During this period, driver wages rose significantly, to the point that Metro had the third-highest-paid drivers in the country. In 2008, Metro attracted the scrutiny of the Municipal League of King County, which issued a damning report on the agency’s cost structure. In 2013, it issued a grumpy follow-up report, noting modest improvements but reiterating cost structure concerns.
A) That was six years ago. B) Don’t trust this editorial board’s numbers. Ever. And C) Unionized bus drivers! It burns!
In 2012, after sales-tax revenues crashed because of the Great Recession, Metro got a boost with a temporary $20 car-tab tax.
A temporary fee that only made up a portion of Metro’s shortfall. The rest was met through cost cuts, fare hikes, and using up the last of its cash reserves. Also, this temporary fee was intended to tide us over until the legislature approved a more stable funding source. It never did. So King County is using the only taxing authority it has.
This year, King County leaders are back again. Metro faces a $75 million deficit when that car tab expires. This time, the request is breathtaking, for its size and for the regressive nature of the proposal. A $40 hike in car tabs and another 0.1 percent sales tax increase would yield an estimated $1.6 billion over 10 years. Three-fifths of it goes to Metro, the remainder to roads, bike lanes and road diet programs.
Of course they’re back again. The temporary $20 car tab fee expired, and the reserve funds are all used up. Everybody understood it was only a stopgap measure at the time the car tab fee was passed. And the size of the package is no more “breathtaking” than the MVET authority Olympia promised, but refuses to deliver. The two tax packages raise exactly the same amount of revenue, and for exactly the same purposes.
As for the regressive nature of the tax, yes, car tabs and sales tax are more regressive than an MVET, which taxes the value of your car, and thus hits owners of more expensive vehicles harder. But what the fucking concern trolls at the Seattle Times don’t tell you is that is that the package includes a $20 rebate for low-income households, as well as a new low-income fare. And of course, nothing could be more regressive than slashing bus service!
Metro’s defenders cite recent cost-saving reforms in the 2010-2013 contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, including a wage freeze the first year and an overall 2.3 percent increase the second year.
In the private sector, that would be called a rational response to an economic crisis. In the public sector, those concessions are deemed justification for a breathtaking new revenue increase.
Though the Municipal League is supporting Proposition 1, it does so “reluctantly,” citing ongoing concerns with cost controls and efficiencies. It urges Metro to do better, including measuring itself against peers.
But: If voters approve Proposition 1, King County would have no incentive to do the hard work of bringing down labor costs that still saddle Metro with the fifth-highest driver costs in the country, behind only Boston, Santa Cruz, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
Let’s be clear, the Seattle Times opposition to Proposition 1 is based solely on its opposition to anything that remotely smells of organized labor. The drivers union is the editors’ squirrel. It doesn’t matter how regressive the taxes in Prop 1 are—if the measure balanced the tax hike by busting the union, the paper would happily wag its tail in approval.
Also, don’t trust the editors’ numbers. They’re almost always wrong.
If voters turn down Proposition 1, King County threatens a round of devastating bus-service cuts, many on popular routes including those carrying students to college. County and Metro leadership should not let that happen.
County leaders are trying not to let this happen. By raising revenue. Because, you know, shit costs money.
The threat ignores other options, including further fare increases and ever tighter control of administrative costs and capital expenses.
And the editors ignore the fact that Metro has been pursuing these options for years. Metro is about to raise fares for the fifth time since 2008—and it already has some of the highest farebox returns in the nation.
Cutting services is not a threat. If Prop 1 fails, service will be cut, just like it was in Pierce and Snohomish counties when they failed to raise new tax revenue.
King County has been negotiating with the drivers union for nine months. Talks are now in mediation. Both sides could earn voters’ trust with quick resolution of a contract that further drops costs.
Jesus. Again with drivers union. Squirrel!
Saying no to Proposition 1 is not a message that transit does not matter. It does. The region, particularly job-dense downtown Seattle, needs reliable bus service. Nor should a no vote be read in Olympia as a sign the state Legislature does not need to pass a transportation package that includes less regressive transit tax options. It does.
No, it’s a message that low taxes matter more than transit. At least to the editors of the Seattle Times.
Vote no on Proposition 1, and send King County government a message that Metro has more work to do on righting its cost structure before asking voters for more revenue.
Actually, all the Seattle Times is doing is sending a message that it is either too stupid to understand that time has run out, or too dishonest honest to admit it. The legislature was supposed to grant Metro MVET authority two sessions ago, but senate Republicans have persistently blocked the bill, you know, just because.
The $20 tab fee expires in June. The reserve funds are empty. Whatever other options may exist cannot be exercised in time to avoid devastating service cuts. Reject Prop 1 and Metro will slash service. That’s not a threat. That’s reality.
But look: squirrel!