Earlier this month, the many jurisdictions in King County banded together to present a unified transportation proposal (.pdf) to be considered before the State Legislature. The proposal, signed off by the county, the City of Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association (all the other suburban cities in the county), is a direct ask for local funding options primarily through leveraging a sizable gas tax increase that would mostly benefit the State.
There are three specific elements to the proposal:
- An 8-cent statewide gax tax increase, with a 65/35 split between state and local needs, respectively.
- An increase of councilmanic authority to directly impose a vehicle license fee (VLF) from $20 to $40 in Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD). Anything remaining out of $100 could be brought before the voters.
- A 1.5% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) that could be passed councilmanically or by popular vote. According to Fred Jarrett, 60% of the MVET would go to Metro, while the remaining would be divvied up among the county and cities for roads.
Gas tax proposal (and all accompanying opinions) aside, the asks are fairly significant. Doubling the councilmanic VLF authority to $40 could arguably ease pressure off any remaining VLF increase that would go before a public vote. And as Martin mentioned earlier this year, a 1% MVET alone would be sufficient to plug Metro’s annual deficit of $60 million. An additional 0.5% on top of that could presumably go toward a substantial service increase*.
The proposal is among many that the Legislature will have to juggle for the upcoming session, so the chances that King County will get everything it wants is extremely slim. Any funding authority will also have to clear both the Senate and the House, which will be no mean feat of its own.
*We can assume an effective 0.9% MVET for Metro assuming it gets a 60% share of the proposed 1.5% rate. A 1% MVET is estimated to generate up to $100 million annually, so some back-of-the-napkin math gives us $90 million a year for Metro, more than enough to cover the deficit.