Senate Kills Transit Without A Vote

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen

We’ve just learned that the amendment on SB 6774 to save Community Transit and Pierce Transit is dead. For those just tuning in, it would have allowed – not created, just allowed – transportation benefit districts to be created by those agencies. It failed through a scoping process – reportedly a Senator asked the lieutenant governor, Brad Owen, to rule on whether the amendment would be outside the scope of the bill. He ruled that it was outside scope, and the amendment was stripped.

The legislature as a whole, despite a few friends, did almost nothing for transit this session. Perhaps it would be appropriate to strip them of dedicated road funding?

About Ben Schiendelman

Ben Schiendelman joined in 2007 to better consolidate news and information about our upcoming transit expansions, and to build a better base to further grow our system. He previously wrote the blog Higher Frequency, and worked on the 2008 Mass Transit Now campaign. Ben refuses to own a driver's license.




Comments

  1. You can direct your twitter ire to @senatedemocrats — but don’t forget to thank the House for at least trying: @hdccomm

    I can’t wait for the next election.

  2. Transpo Guy says:

    An initiative to repeal the gas tax?

    • Ben Schiendelman says:
      • whathaveyoudoneformelately says:

        Having now read through this year’s transportation budget (ESSB 6381), there are a couple of transit wins worth highlighting. An additional $10.5M was appropriated for 3 additional regional mobility grant (RMG) applicants and a transit needs study funded through the Joint Transportation Committee at $350K.

        A compare of last year’s and this year’s highway projects list shows about $10M spent on new projects (vs. cost increases) with around another $1M for various highway and ferry studies including a couple of tolling studies. In other words, no obvious bias.

        In researching the RMG program it appears to be primarily capital needs focused but I suppose the legislature could have programmed that for Community and/or Pierce to shore-up operating costs had they wanted to. The additional RMG funding originally got tacked on in the house transpo., committee. I wonder if they contemplated flipping the funds for operating purposes? Maybe next year transit advocates could come at the legislature from that angle (flipping RMG funds to op vs. cap)?

        Another bugger for transit and rail is the competition for revenues with the general fund budget. Most of the non-constitutionally protected highway funding in the transportation budget looks to come from sales tax on vehicles, rental car taxes, (both authorized in 2003 by then chairs Murray and Horn) and passenger vehicle weight fees (authorized in 2005 by then chairs Murray and Haugen). These general purpose taxes go toe-to-toe with general fund revenue streams whereas the weight fee has a clear transportation nexus. Finding new non-highway eligible funding streams will be a challenge in light of the chronic structural deficit in the state’s operating (general fund) budget. Maybe that’s in part what the above transit study is designed to examine.

        One other thing my research turned-up is the current transportation benefit district statutes allow funds to be used for transit purposes (including the councilmatic $20 local option vehicle license fee). Looks like the difference with the Liias proposal was a transit board would have had the authority to impose the fee but if you’ve got a friendly city/county council, the authority is there under current law to fund transit.

        One last thought. The mood here is pretty anti-senate and anti-Haugen. Why not invite her to do a guest post outlining her position on transit funding (and private motor carriers too)? My research indicates she has at least been at the table when transit funding is in the mix. On that note, maybe this outfit should ask to be at the table too as part of the newly funded transit study. As the saying goes, ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the table.’ I saw another recent post here about taking the long view; that advice applies to dealings with the legislature as well.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        The existing TBD statute has a very high bar for getting city government buy-in. King County actively explored this option but was turned away by cities that wanted the money for their own projects.

        In practice the law gives cities a veto on county-wide TBDs.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Yeah, whathaveyoudoneformelately, it’s not just A friendly city council, you have to have ALL friendly city councils. It’s not going to happen.

        If there weren’t a difference, the Senate wouldn’t have pushed against that amendment. Obviously.

        And seriously, comparing last year’s highway projects with this year’s? Okay, so the delta in highway projects in a recession is small? What’s the total? Pretty sure you’re talking more like $2,000M.

        I’m sure someone posting from the Senate network would love to see us give the Senate a pat on the back and a guest piece to spin things in their favor!

    • Ooooh. I like that idea. Repeal the gas tax and replace it with a retail sales tax on gasoline. I LIKE IT!

      • That’ll be the only way to capture any revenue next year when gas is $10 a gallon and almost nobody is driving!

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Also to bring back the MVET at pre-I695 rates. Either dump all of the money into the general fund or reserve more for transit, rail, HOV, ferries, pedestrians, bikes, etc than for general purpose road lanes. Though I would fix the issue of valuing older vehicles, either by using surveys like blue book or the IRS depreciation schedules, this was one of the main things that caused people to hate the MVET.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Remember an initiative can have only one purpose.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Ok, maybe two initiatives. ;-) But it’s not like the single-subject restriction has ever stopped Tim Eyeman. Even when the courts toss his initiatives out, the legislature seems to enact much of what he was going for in the first place.

  3. Unbelievable.

    We have ZERO leadership in Olympia, with Haugen at the helm of a sinking ship.

    At least Republicans are honest in their opposition to public transportation.

    Democratic leadership kills transit behind closed doors.

    • We need to organize now to get those so called progressives out of office.

      • You would rather have a majority of Rossi-type “no taxes, just more highways” members?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        That’s what we have. That’s such a false dilemma – we can organize to go after a couple of targets from the left.

  4. It is a similar problem in our national politics. The question is, what will people do about it? It is time to let these politicians know that there are consequences to selling out the public interest.

    • Simple, stop electing people on party, and start electing more independents and third party people on policies, rather than on party lines.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        It’s not that simple. You can spend a huge amount of money on trying to elect an independent, or you can take a swing district and push it Republican for a cycle so you can get a better Democrat the next time around.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Well with top-two there is also the possibility of a bad democrat having to face a better one. Though this only really happens in districts like the 43rd or 46th where any republican candidate simply doesn’t stand a chance.

        One issue with this is it is difficult to get anyone credible to run against an incumbent from the same party as they fear retribution from the party organization.

        OTOH it can be done, for example Chopp has made a lot of enemies and could very well face an opponent with support from various power centers within the party.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Even better is to support campaign finance reform efforts. The money is what makes it hard for independents to run and is why nobody wants to challenge incumbents. Also those who pay the piper call the tune which is why organizations like the BIAW and road contractors have so much influence in our politics.

      • Andy Walker says:

        Unless or until we have something like instant run-off voting this will be a pretty hard to do, otherwise it gets close to throwing away your vote in many cases.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean don’t do anything but vote for one of the two main parties until then, but it does make the bar pretty high to get any non R or D in office.

  5. Car tabs should never be used for anything other than roads.

    • Property tax and income should never be used to support automobile addiction.

      So no fire/rescue service to motor vehicle accidents. All local asphalt and traffic signals paid for entirely out of car registration fees (tabs). Washington State Patrol only deals with automobile related issues, not local police.

      Of course no more US Military interventions to help prop up our eternal friends the Saudis, but that’s not a matter for Olympia, yet.

      Stop forcing me to subsidize your lifestyle choice!

      • Car tabs; license fees; gas taxes; sales tax on vehicles; sales tax on vehicle repairs; sales tax on vehicle parts; parking fees; parking tickets; tax on commercial parking; red light, speeding, and other ticket revenue; vehicle weight fees; tire tax; etc. etc.

        Combined, all these taxes, fees, etc. on motor vehicles generate as much revenue as is spent on roads.

        If you don’t pay any of these taxes, stay of our roads! That includes on buses. If you don’t pay for roads, then don’t use them!

        Of course, if you ever do ride a bus, then you should be helping pay for roads. And the fares you pay to ride a bus don’t even cover more than a fraction of the operating cost of the bus, let alone pay for any of the roads the buses use.

        “So no fire/rescue service to motor vehicle accidents.” Now, that is brilliant. How can there be fire/rescue service without roads? lol

        And we all know that people who drive cars never pay property taxes — we all live in our cars. Right?

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        So many fallacies…

        Norman, if sales tax on cars should be focused on car-related spending, why shouldn’t sales tax on hammers be focused on hammer-related spending?

      • Car-related taxes rarely pay for more than half of the cost of roads.

      • I LOVE Martin’s example, but here’s another one for folks like Norman. If we stipulate that a certain number of people need to travel through a corridor — on the 520 bridge, for example — we can’t always just build more roads. We could put a 10-lane bridge there, but there’s literally nowhere for all of that traffic to go on the Seattle side of the lake.

        So, why isn’t it an entirely appropriate use of motor vehicle taxes to add an additional two lanes that are for HOV3+ and transit use only? This increases the throughput of travelers through the corridor and should theoretically maintain the flow of SOV drivers through the corridor as well.

        Or here’s another one for you. Should we encourage more and more drivers to come into Downtown, increasing traffic, and driving up the cost of parking? OR, should we tie motor vehicle taxes (or, at least some of the money from parking fees) to increase transit and build park-and-ride lots so that more folks can choose an alternative means of travel Downtown, and those who do have to drive in can find a space to park that is affordable?

      • Don’t build more park and rides – Instead, start charging at least $2-$4 per day for parking and use the funds for improved bus service, bike racks, or even pedestrian improvements. The point is to give people more choices. A select few may still need to be upgraded – These can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

        If there is enough parking left over, I’d even encourage the private shuttles to use those lots as well. Like I said before, I don’t have problems with the private shuttles using P&R’s as long as they aren’t adding to an already overwhelmed parking lot.

      • Fire/Rescue can use roads, as they have tabs (exempt ones, but still valid) they just can’t go to road accidents anymore since the car tabs do not pay for the cost of the Fire/Rescue. The property tax payers do for fire protection of homes/buildings. Fire/Rescue only to property fires and accidents.

        People who use cars may in fact not pay property taxes if they are renters.

        And increasingly, thanks to the no new taxes/deregulate everything culture of the right-wing ih the USA, many more people do live in their cars.

      • Renters pay property taxes – They just pay them indirectly through their rent. I’d argue that cyclists who don’t own a car and pay rent are still subsidizing car owners. The property taxes their landlords pay are relied on to build and maintain local roads – the same roads that cyclists primarily use.

      • You are of course correct VeloBus, but in Norman’s world, if you didn’t directly pay for it, you can’t use it.

      • Did Norman pay rent on the clean air that his Hummer is dumping pollution into? How about the waterway that oil from his leaky oilpan leaks into? Just curious…

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Great point!

  6. Transit Guy says:

    Since most of us (I suspect) are city folk, and it’s the suburban and rural Democrats who have screwed us over, I hope we remember to tell our local Senators what we think of their caucus colleagues. They need to hear it loud and clear.

    If the Democratic majority is going to give us Republican legislation, why the hell should we care about them at election day?

    • Some of our own Seattle reps are real zeros, too. Take Rep. Zack Hudgins, please! He couldn’t even be bothered to vote in favor of the Liias amendment.

      You have to go down to line 30 on his contributor list to find a real live constituent who has contributed to his re-election campaign.

  7. old timer says:

    Who are you going to call?
    Ever attend a caucus?
    The candidates come pre-packaged.
    All have way too much time-in-grade.
    We need an Eyeman-type initiative to direct transit funding sources,
    and areas of expense.
    Even then, they will overturn direct voter orders; do whatever they want.
    The system is broken.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      We have choices if we make those choices. Sometimes it takes years. It’s not as simple as a checkbox, but it’s not that hard, either.

    • Chris Stefan says:

      I find that far too cynical. As Ben said the process takes time, but good people can be encouraged to run. Support and a donor base can be built. The lines of communication can be kept open and continued support shown so they don’t get captured by the usual interests once they are in office.

      But the work is never done. You can’t just put your effort into a single election and say “we’re done”. You’ve got to work like labor or business interests and constantly be talking to those already in office as well as working with potential and actual candidates for office.

  8. Remember in 2005 when the state passed the gas tax to fund the AWV and 520, then an initiative process put a repeal of it on the ballot? Every progressive camp in the state fought to keep the gas tax in place.

    Maybe we should have thought twice about that. If the tax had been repealed, at least the state wouldn’t be so enabled in cramming highway projects down our throats while starving transit.

    • “Starving transit”? How many buses per day use the AWV?

      How much use would buses be without roads?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Actually, very few buses use the AWV – and more than that, none of them really need to. 1st Avenue would work just as well. That’s why much of the transit community doesn’t really support replacing the thing.

      • That’s kind of a stretch–the 54, 55, and 120 are some of the very high-frequency routes that use the viaduct. The routes that take 1st Ave instead (like the 21 and 22) are much, much slower. I agree with your broader point though.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        The 54, 55 and 120 could just be express on 1st. And we could put transit lanes on 1st all the way to the West Seattle Freeway. :)

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Any of the replacement options for the AWV would allow buses to use 99 for some portion of the trip between Spokane Street and Downtown. For the elevated and tunnel options buses would have to exit near Qwest field in order to continue to downtown stops. Depending on the exact configuration the surface option would allow access to and from 99 at Columbia and Marion.

        However Ben is correct in that the downtown portions of both the proposed tunnel and the elevated options considered by WSDOT are almost entirely useless to transit because of the lack of exits in the central downtown portion.

      • That gas tax (and other fees) funded more than just 520 and AWV, which combined are only 35% of the planned expenditures of that package. More info on the 2005 gas tax package at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Funding/2005/default.htm

  9. Now that the Governor has called a “short” special session, is there any chance of resurrecting this bill?

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      No. The extended session, I believe, will only be for bills still alive.

      • Actually, Ben, I think that in the event of a special session, all bills get re-introduced (similar to what happens when the second session of the biennium rolls around). It’s why Zarelli was able to introduce a bill to suspend per-diem during special session when there were two days left in regular session and being after all hose of origin cut off dates.

        That said, it’s not likely that the bill will be revived. The focus of the special session will be purely on resolving House/Senate differences in the supplemental budgets.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        Thanks – I didn’t know that! I’ll follow up and see if there’s any chance of reintroduction of the original bill.

    • Theoretically there is a chance. However, the House and Senate will likely adopt resolutions limiting the special session to certain issues (budget) that are unlikely to include transit. In reality, this fight is over, thanks to Mary Margaret Haugen.

      • The disturbing thing is how long Mary Margaret has held this power over transportation state-wide. Term-limits, or at least limits on seniority and chairmanships anyone?

      • We have term limits and they’re called elections. Haugen’s next is in 2012. She’s not expected to run again.

  10. TransitAdvocate says:

    Haugen is the main problem, but she is not the only problem. There is a gross lack of Senate champions for Transit to push Haugen and the rest of the caucus in the right direction. No Senator from Seattle, Tacoma, or Snoho prioritizes transit as being important at all. The Seattle member on Senate Transpo is Ken Jacobsen, who shows up to only half of the committees and only talks about Tele-commuting. Absolutely, we should blame Haugen for the Senate’s ability to kill transit in Washington, but we also need to blame our urban Senators for not working for transit, and blame ourselves for electing Dems in safe seats who don’t care about transit.

    The most immediate way we can get a Transit Champion in the Senate is getting Sharon Nelson into the Senate and on Senate Transportation.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Will she be running this year?

      • Sen. Haugen would be running in 2012, if she were to change her mind and seek re-election. There seem to be some local scandals that have pushed her to call it a career.

        http://www.pdc.wa.gov has all the candidates who are raising money for all the state-level offices. That’s where I found out that David Frockt is challenging road warrior Sen. Ken Jacobsen.

        http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/ has lots of useful information, including all state-level offices up for election this year.

        Nothing gets the attention of politicians faster than having someone force them to raise money to get re-elected. Even if we can only afford one or two serious challenges, making a whole lot of legislators sweat would be worth the effort. But I happen to think Jacobsen would be one of our best options for showing that legislators who turn their back on their transit-using constituents *can* be taken down. He’s been nailed there on a perch for years, but with the Louisiana system, the perch may have just disappeared…

    • I have to scratch my head here. Has Rep. Nelson ever met a freeway she didn’t like? I know, we’re supposed to focus on who votes pro-transit, but voting for freeway mega-projects undercuts a lot of what we are hoping to achieve. In what way is Rep. Nelson’s record better than that of the current Senator, Joe McDermott?

      Like the rest of the Seattle House delegation, except Bob Hasegawa, Jamie Pedersen, and Frank Chopp, she voted for the 520 toll raid (SB 6392). Like the rest of the delegation, except for Bob Hasegawa, Marylou Dickerson, Sharon Tomiko-Santos, and Frank Chopp, she voted to stick Seattle taxpayers with the cost overruns on the car tunnel (SB 5768).

      I see little consistent heroism from anyone in Olympia. Until we show we can take down an incumbent, we’ll only get people willing to co-sponsor other people’s efforts, and then not follow through to get the needed bills passed, while continuing to pump billions of dollars into automobile infrastructure.

      I don’t have time, or interest, to help half-hearted transit-and-road friends advance their careers.

  11. Mark Dublin says:

    36TH District Caucus is going to be at the Salmon Bay middle school, 1800 NW 65th in Ballard, starting 1PM day after tomorrow, Sunday the 14th. I’ll be there.

    Might check and see if other districts are doing the same. Based on history, third parties are important as sources of ideas- but taking over one or both of the two major parties seems to be the way to get these ideas implemented.

    So both political tracks are needed- which one you choose depends on where you think you work most effectively. Best plan of attack is to find a group of people who isn’t getting anything good out of the political system, and appeal to it. Two come to mind immediately: young people and Republicans.

    Remember, a lot of Washington State’s best politics came from Republicans of the Dan Evans stripe, including the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle. These people have been politically homeless since a bunch of Southern Democrats took over their party. Somebody needs to organize “Democrats for Improved Republicans.” Then maybe “bipartisanship” won’t mean “Do what Glenn Beck says.”

    Jules Feiffer had a cartoon awhile back showing two New York intellectuals in a coffee-shop. One is saying something like:

    “Democrats used to get their ideas from liberals, who got their ideas from leftists. Now there aren’t anymore leftists, so Democrats are stuck with their own ideas. That’s how Reagan won.”

    Meantime, anytime somebody says they’re “progressive”, ask them why they’re afraid to say “liberal.” If they say they’re more moderate than that, vote for somebody else.

    Mark Dublin

    • Chris Stefan says:

      Remember, a lot of Washington State’s best politics came from Republicans of the Dan Evans stripe, including the Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle. These people have been politically homeless since a bunch of Southern Democrats took over their party. Somebody needs to organize “Democrats for Improved Republicans.” Then maybe “bipartisanship” won’t mean “Do what Glenn Beck says.”

      While I liked the old Dan Evans type of Republicans (and nationally liked the Rockefeller/Ford Republicans). I think the chance of steering the party back in that direction is slim to none. The know nothings, nativists, birchers, free market fundamentalists, gun nuts, and theocrats are a majority of the party these days. Typically when I find an Evans Republican these days, they consider themselves democrats. Even if by some chance the old Evans type Republicans were able to take the Washington GOP back they would find themselves quite out of step with the party nationally.

      Frankly as someone who currently considers himself a yellow dog democrat, I’d rather focus my efforts on trying to fix the problems problems of the democrats from inside the system. The advantage and the challenge is today’s democratic party is such a large coalition that no one group has a real solid hold.

      Meantime, anytime somebody says they’re “progressive”, ask them why they’re afraid to say “liberal.” If they say they’re more moderate than that, vote for somebody else.

      So what does it mean when someone says they’re a “socialist”? ;-)

    • Note that Rep. Carlyle has a challenger, John Burbank. It’s actually a rematch of the open election two years ago. This could be helpful. I’ve heard a lot of good things about John, including his activism for election reform. I hope John can pull it off this time, as we need more people like him in Olympia.

      FWIW, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles voted against the raid on 520 bridge tolls, and Rep. Marylou Dickerson was one of the few Democrats who voted against sticking Seattle taxpayers with the cost overruns on the car tunnel.

  12. Mark Dublin says:

    I should have added another group currently left out of politics- and considering history, possibly the key to huge long-lasting political power.

    Beneath the political radar, we’re undergoing an industrial revolution. Drive (or take the bus or LINK to) into any small warehouse park in the country. Knock on any office door beside a loading dock.

    Chances are, you’ll find a small manufacturing operation with somebody on a computer sending or receiving CNC (computer numeric control- for sending machining instructions directly to a milling machine) all over the world.

    Right now, neither major party- or any minor party, including all the socialist ones, even notice these people. But it’s widely if grudgingly conceded that companies like these are responsible for virtually all the new jobs now.

    Considering what happened politically due to the last Industrial Revolution, whoever gets to this new group now could be solidly in power for a long time. Politically, their interests are liberal. If they get a fair chance at the Government contracts, even socialist.

    It would be a shame to see this group go far right- and take the country with them- because nobody on my side even knows they’re there. Transit in particular seems to be oblivious to them right now- at a time when many of them could really use a place in some Transit Oriented Development.

    As for the DIR- Democrats for Improved Republicans- I think US politics needs a place for responsible conservative businesspeople. The Republican Party has too good a history to end up the possession of the irresponsible greedheads-on-meth who now control it. The worst of whom used to be Democrats.

    The problem with natural Republicans forced to join the Democrats is the same as with Democrats trying to be fiscally conservative- the suit just doesn’t fit. I like Fred Jarrett. He deserves to have his real party back.

    Mark

    Mark Dublin

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