Marko Liias, a strong transit ally in the Washington State House of Representatives, has put forward a bill that would allow counties to collect a “congestion reduction charge” of up to $30 per vehicle to help fund transit. PubliCola reports that Judy Clibborn, the powerful chair of the House Transportation Committee, is one of many co-sponsors. So is Joe Fitzgibbon, the new pro-transit representative from West Seattle.
The governor vetoed a similar provision in May, 2009, but Metro’s deep budget problems may have changed the political landscape.
If passed, Liias’ bill would enter into effect August 1 of this year. The King County Council will then have to approve the vehicle license fee to the annual vehicle license fee, and actual collections could begin no earlier than six months after that. The bill terminates itself on June 30, 2014. So, optimistically, this bill represents an additional funding source for Metro between February, 2012 and July, 2014. Is this the sort of long-term fix Metro needs? No, but it may buy some time and it’s unlikely that any revenue source decided upon in the current political climate will be able to address Metro’s future budget concerns.
The $30 fee would raise roughly $37 million per year, if one extrapolates from an early Transit Task Force report on revenue options. Metro is facing a $50 million shortfall by 2012, and it only gets worse over time.
The bill would face stiff odds in the State Senate, where some members there — backed by Senator Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Haugen — are proposing to only allow communities to increase revenue for transit as part of a larger package that would also help fill the state’s highway coffers.