Speaking of allocation of state transportation funding…

This morning over at Publicola, Josh Feit pens an “angry editorial,” (his words, not mine) about transportation funding going to Republican-dominated state legislative districts when their members voted against the nickel-a-gallon gas tax. (I see Josh has also cross-posted the editorial at HA here.)

While I understand Josh’s frustration, and freely admit to not really knowing squat about the merits of the Mercer Street project up there, I would throw in one little factoid.

One of the projects Feit mentions is an interchange project in Clark County’s 18th LD, the home of Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, ranking member of Ways and Means. It’s true the 18th district is very conservative, but the rest of Clark County, not so much. Plus people don’t choose their automotive route by legislative district. If you need to go somewhere, you need to go somewhere.

The more urban 49th is a solid Democratic district, and the 17th District on the east side has moved from leaning Republican to leaning Democratic with the election of Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, who replaced the useless turd Jim Dunn. But I digress.

Here’s the little factoid I want to consider:

Among Washington’s 39 counties, only four receive less than Clark County for each dollar it contributes for transportation projects.

The Washington Department of Transportation last week generated a new county-by-county comparison that shows Clark County gets 79 cents in transportation projects for every dollar it contributes in taxes, mainly in gas taxes.

—snip—

Eric Hovee, an economic and development consultant in Vancouver, noted that the comparison shows big counties around Puget Sound receive just about exactly what they contribute. (King County is the only one in the state that receives exactly $1 in projects for every dollar contributed). Hovee scanned to the bottom of the list, where rural counties reaped large dividends.

So King County and Puget Sound area residents are basically getting their money back, Clark County residents are getting the short end of the stick (so what’s new?) and the smaller counties are getting a great benefit. This kind of imbalance only fuels resentment and makes it that much harder to fund things down here.

Just something to add to the mix.

Comments

  1. 1

    rhp6033 spews:

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to spend more money in rural areas based on “% of tax dollars contributed” or “per capita” calculations. OF COURSE rural counties will suffer in any such analysis, simply because there are fewer people per mile of road.

    But on the other hand, it’s hardly fair for conservitive politicians in Eastern Washington to claim that Eastern Washington taxpayer money is subsidizing traffic problems in urban areas of Western Washington. That simply isn’t the case.

    As for Clark County – sounds like it needs for it’s politicians to be able to carry more weight at Olympia.

  2. 2

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Jon–
    Good perspective..
    Josh was soooo angry about Mercer Street, he starting flapping his wrists BEFORE putting some reasonable perspective.
    Josh loves that “free money’ don’t he!

  3. 3

    EvergreenRailfan spews:

    Some Eastern Washington Counties, I understand why they need the money for road maintenance, and their own gas tax revenue might not be enough, but then again, since they drive more than even people in Spokane, they pay more in gas taxes, and probably have less efficient cars. Although Spokane might eventually be in the same boat as the more urban counties West Side of the mountains, only they don’t know it yet. Although right now, I believe they are the #2 city in the state population-wise behind Seattle, but Tacoma is gaining on Spokane.

  4. 4

    Chris Stefan spews:

    Well to some extent rural counties are going to need a bit more than they raise if there is a major highway going through. I really don’t want to see I-5, I-82, or I-90 get neglected in some rural county because there isn’t enough of a tax base there to maintain it.

    I suppose the list of projects forwarded by the legislature might have been the highest priority ones that would be ready in 90 or 180 days. However given past history there tends to be a bit of a defensive reaction seeing this as yet another example of a perceived Olympia “Screw central Puget Sound, especially King County, and even more so Seattle” mentality.

    Of course one reason for the fighting is the list of needs has gone up and the pot of money to pay for it has shrunk.

  5. 5

    Narrows Bridge spews:

    I think all should step back and do this calculation over a broader timeframe. It is my understanding that the numbers would be different depending on the years you pick to average.

    What should be considered is:
    1) are the projects ready to go?
    2) how many jobs will they create doing the project?
    3) will they have a job creation multiplier effect after completion?

    Finally, at some point the State and local entities dealing with transportation should identify the very long term needs and start planning to fund those. Maintenance must be included by all entities in the long term costs. Some cities are using their authority to raise car registrations fees to fill potholes.

    As Obama said, we must deal with the issues we have put off. Transportation funding in Washington State needs a holistic hard look.