Support a Less Regressive Metro Funding Measure!

It’s no October Revolution, but kudos to socialist council member Kshama Sawant and her fellow traveler Nick Licata (literally a communist, in that he once lived in a commune) for fighting to make the city’s proposed Metro buyback funding package just a little less regressive.

Sawant and Licata propose replacing the 0.1 cent sales tax increase component of the package with an increase in the Commercial Parking Tax (from 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent), and a modest restoration of the Employee Hours Tax: $16.68 per employee per year, with small businesses exempted. That would cost a Seattle business only $1.39 per employee a month, about 8 cents an hour—hardly the type of burden that would drive jobs out of booming Seattle.

I won’t belabor the details here; Sawant has posted an informative FAQ on her council blog. Go read that. But I will take the opportunity to editorialize.

As I see it, there are two compelling reasons for the council to adopt the Sawant/Licata proposal: 1) It’s more fair; and 2) The resulting tax package would be more likely to pass voters.

On the first point, Washington already has the most regressive tax system in the nation, and by far. This tax swap doesn’t do a lot to reverse that, but at least it doesn’t add to it the way a highly regressive sales tax increase would. About 40 percent of downtown Seattle workers rely on Metro to commute in to work; all Sawant and Licata are doing is asking businesses to pick up a little bit of the cost of maintaining the bus service on which they rely.

On the second point, because the sales tax is so regressive, it is also highly unpopular, which surely contributed to the defeat of the countywide Prop 1 in April. If the Sawant/Licata amendment passes, the council would impose the Employee Hours and Commercial Parking taxes directly. Only the $60 car tab increase would go to Seattle voters in November. Considering how crucial maintaining bus service is to our local economy and the welfare of low and middle income commuters, the council should do whatever it can to best assure passage. Replacing the regressive sales tax component with more progressive alternatives will surely help.

The Sawant/Licata proposal will be debated at today’s Transportation Committee hearing, at 2 p.m., and possibly submitted to a final vote. If you can’t show your support in person, scroll to the bottom of Sawant’s FAQ and email council members. Also, sign this petition.


  1. 1

    djw spews:

    I would probably support the Sawant plan over the Mayor’s but only mildly so (it combines the best tax of the three with the worst; jacking up parking taxes is a great idea for reasons progressive and Pigovian, but an employee head tax is not a road we should go be going down). But whichever plan ends up on the ballot, we need not worry about the voters. Prop 1 sailed to success in Seattle, and we’ll have a more progressive, transit-friendly electorate in come November.

  2. 2

    Gordon Werner spews:

    Goldy … when I discuss this with people (usually on/near the bus) … very few understand the concept of a “Regressive Tax System” and what that means … might help to “simplify” it … might actually get the attention of those who are already burdened by it.

    just a though

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The sales tax is unpopular because it’s high, not because it’s regressive. Earlier increases in the sales tax were easier to pass. With the sales tax pressing up against 10%, voters have reached their resistance point. If the Gates Commission proposal to swap out the 6.5% state sales tax and B&O tax for a state income tax were enacted, so that only the 3.3% local option sales tax remained, it would be much easier to get voters to go along with a 0.1% sales tax increase to help pay for bus service.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The teachers’ class size initiative is going to face the same problem. Several years ago, voters passed a similar initiative but voted down a companion initiative on the same ballot that would have raised the sales tax by 1.0% to pay for it. The current class size initiative is problematical in that it contains no funding mechanism. Apparently the teachers’ idea is to get voters to pass it, then use its passage to put pressure on the legislature to come up with the money. That didn’t work in the past and won’t work now. The teachers are leading us into a dead-end alley with this one. I feel fairly confident they couldn’t fund it with a sales tax increase, because we’ve already been down that road, and voters said no. So where will the money come from? Raiding DSHS programs? Kicking old folks out of Medicaid nursing homes?

  5. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The fact is, we’ve hit a wall as far as funding public programs goes, unless and until we get serious about making the undertaxed upper crust pay their fair share. We’re approaching the limits of our ability to soak those least able to pay.

  6. 6

    tensor spews:

    Seattle continues to “go it alone”: raising the minimum wage, buying more and more of the Metro service it uses. Any way we could limit the amount of tax monies which flow outwards, to unincorporated King County and to Eastern Washington? It’s not like the residents in those places ever give us anything but scorn in return for our subsidies of them.

  7. 8


    I’m voting no, the $60 car tab tax is not buying me anything. The proposal is way out of balance. Where is the 40% input from the businesses that is equal to their benefit?
    I’m getting fucked no matter how you arrange the political fig leaves.

    How about a 1% income tax that treats earned investment income as regular income?
    Then fund intracity bus service with that money,
    And a business tax to funnel their suburban sprawl employees in and out of the city.