Seattle Voters To Be Put To Transit Test in November

Will a large city do what its county voters refused to do—fund the county bus system, though largely within city limits? Seattle voters will be put to the test in November when asked to pay an annual $60 vehicle fee and 0.1% sales tax.
July 20, 2014, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Demography matters. Can a large, progressive city be pulled down by its more populous, conservative suburban neighbors? Essentially that's what happened in April with the defeat of Proposition 1 that reduced county bus service substantially. Seattle voters have been given the opportunity to save their bus transit come November.

"The Seattle City Council Thursday (July 17th) unanimously approved sending a funding package for (King County) Metro transit service to voters in November. The measure would levy a $60 car-tab fee and increase the city sales tax by 0.1 percent," writes Lynn Thompson, Seattle Times staff reporter.

As noted in April, 55% of King County voters rejected the same funding proposal known as Proposition 1, that is, a $60 "car tab" fee and .1% sales increase. The major difference between the county and city proposal is that tax revenues from the April county measure "would have been split 60 percent for transit and 40 percent for county and city roads." 

"King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Wednesday (April 23) that, with the defeat of Proposition 1 in the special election, he will send legislation Thursday to the County Council to eliminate 72 Metro Transit bus routes and reduce service by 550,000 hours,..."

Seattle's November proposal will almost entirely fund transit: "$40 million a year for city transit, $3 million to support regional routes in partnership with other cities and $2 million to give low-income residents a $20 car-tab rebate," writes Thompson.

Interestingly, the city council debate on the measure centered on an "amendment...that would have replaced the sales-tax hike with increases to the city’s commercial parking tax and employee head tax, which (proponents) said were less regressive," adds Thompson.

In May, we noted that 66% of Seattle voters supported Proposition 1. The problem for Seattle, population 652,405, is that it represents 32% of the King County population of 2,044,449.

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Published on Saturday, July 19, 2014 in The Seattle Times
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