Ballot Statement Bad Math

[Note: The precise text of this post has changed since original publication thanks to my inept version management. - Martin]

King County voters will soon be receiving their ballots for the April 22 special election, featuring King County Proposition 1, which is needed to stave off a 17% cut in Metro bus service. The Pro and Con statements for the Voters’ Guide are now available online.

The Con statement contains this math-challenged whopper:

Proposed new taxes would burden low-income and transit-dependent individuals, through highly regressive impacts, while unjustly skyrocketing taxes on motorists from $40 for every vehicle over two years to $600 each over 10 years: an unacceptable 1,500% increase.

First, let’s fill in the blanks. The county car tab that is about to expire was $20 per year, for two years. The car tab in Proposition 1 is $60 per year, for ten years. Unmentioned in the Con statement is the fact that the county will rebate $20 off the tab for low-income drivers. Don’t be confused into thinking the car tab is $600 per year, as the Con statement might lead you to believe.

Next, one can only get close to a 1500% increase by comparing ten years of car tabs to two. This is a completely meaningless and dishonest calculation. The one-time increase in the car tab is $40 (200%), or $20 (100%) for low-income drivers.  After the first year, the car tabs stay the same. Don’t let the deceptively-phrased Con statement lead you to believe the county car tab will continue to go up each year.

Additionally, the County Council, acting as the King County Transportation District Board, will have the power to discontinue the 0.1% sales tax increase and car tab at any time, should it find a more progressive funding source (and hopefully the state legislature will someday allow that to happen).

Here is another whopper, from the rebuttal to the statement For:

End bus subsidies for wealthy riders at the expense of the transit dependent.

This statement got it wrong in so many ways. Every transit-dependent resident of King County stands to benefit from staving off the 17% bus service cuts all over the county. Nothing about this proposition is being done at the expense of the bus-dependent. Nor will anybody’s bus service be improved by voting down Proposition 1. Fares are being increased for those who can afford to pay, while low-income riders will have a new, lower fare, but only if Proposition 1 passes and provides the funding for the low-income fare program.

Attempts to reach the un-named oppostion statement writers at their advertised website were blocked by a password request.




Comments

  1. Ha! says

    Oh yes. When all else fails, hide your greed behind a screen of supposed concern for the poor.

  2. says

    “For taxpayers living in east-and-south county – who already pay 65% of transit taxes but receive just 37% of transit services”

    I assume they’re including taxes for Link light rail to boost the “Taxes” number here to make it look unfair? Even if Metro added more service to the Eastside then they’d be complaining about empty buses.

    • David Lawson says

      Exactly. The political Catch-22 of network planning. Run more buses where there is more demand, and the anti-transit crowd complains that parts of the service area with less demand are overpaying. Run the buses equally to everywhere, and they complain that the service is inefficient.

      There is a similar Catch-22 of fare policy. Raise fares, and they complain you are hurting the poor and alienating commuter riders. Lower fares, and they complain you are mooching from the general fund.

      • Brent says

        Meanwhile, the think tanks lobby hard to make sure that these “regressive” taxes they oppose here are the only method of funding bus service allowed by the state legislature. I’d love for the statement authors to name a single progressive funding source for which they have lobbied to fund public transit. For that matter, I would love them to name a single instance in which they have ever lobbied for public transit at all, since they invoke the word “transit” in the name of their non-working webpage.

    • Elaine says

      EASTSIDE is not the South End of King County! The poor people are being pushed out to the South End. Busses are needed in the South King County areas of Renton, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way etc. Whenever I see the Eastside lumped in with South King County I get disgusted. Aside from the areas around Bellevue College and Crossroads, I see little poverty evident on the Eastside.
      The $20 rebate for poor people on the County tab fees still leaves a 200% increase in that Fee/Tax. $60 minus $20 is $40. This still hurts the poor unfairly!

      • Bernie says

        Aside from the areas around Bellevue College and Crossroads, I see little poverty evident on the Eastside

        Really, that’s poverty?

      • Brent says

        An increase from $20 annually to $40 annually is a 100% increase, FWIW.

        But consider what will happen to low-income residents financially if the the low-income fare program goes away (which is an almost certain outcome if Prop 1 fails). Those paying for a one-zone peak pass will end up having to pay an additional $648 per year. Those paying for a two-zone peak pass will end up having to pay an additional $864 per year. The $20 car-tab increase is chump change by comparison. Even very infrequent low-income bus riders will make a profit on Proposition 1 after just 5 round trips on the bus in a year.

        Failure of Prop 1 would be a gargantuan hit on the poor, even before accounting for the widespread lost bus service.

      • Elaine says

        That’s what I meant; there is little poverty evident on the Eastside. What a bunch of ultra nit-pickers! I live in South King county, and hate to ride the bus, mainly because it’s so darn unsafe. Have a go at that!

  3. David Lawson says

    The $600 wording is absolutely repulsively slimy. I hope it gets fact-checked in media other than the usual online suspects and The Stranger.

    It shows just how strong the case for Prop 1 is that the opponents have to resort to that kind of gross deception to make a case against it sound compelling.

    • Nathanael says

      In California, “pro” and “con” statements on ballot measures can be rejected by judges for gross dishonesty. Apparently you have no such procedure in Seattle?

  4. Anandakos says

    The yearly tax is going from $20 to $60 (or the $40 low-income rate). That’s a doubling or tripling — 100% or 200% increase. That the tax lasts for ten years rather than two is pretty much meaningless. Olympia has made it pretty clear that they consider transit funding to be a priority “at the back of the bus”, so the system needs a stable revenue source.

    The ten year span ought to be considered a “feature” not a “bug”.

    So, “Yes, the opponents are being craven tools.” But isn’t that a tautology?

  5. jory says

    ‘I hope it gets fact-checked in media other than the usual online suspects and The Stranger.’

    We could always ‘help’ it along. ;)

  6. RossB says

    Bad math and bad grammar. That sentence is a mess. It is too long and contains the phrases “through highly regressive impacts” and “unjustly skyrocketing taxes”. The first phrase could mean “it gets smaller and smaller, every year”, in which case: Cool, what are you whining about. The second phrase is just ugly.

      • RossB says

        I think it is both. Deconstructing that sentence is difficult, and I’m not convinced that the sentence is grammatically correct. I know it is a mess, though (which is why deconstructing it is so hard).

    • DrewJ says

      “$600 each [vehicle] over 10 years” It’s like the word “vehicle” was left out just so the reader might think “year.”

  7. Gabe says

    Reading the full statement, the “no” side sounds desperate. You don’t have a good argument if you have to lie to make your point. The only thing that’s true is that sales tax and flat car tab fees are regressive, but misses the point about the new low income fare. Has anyone conducted a poll on how Prop 1 is doing?

    • asdf says

      Is it really that regressive? You own more vehicles, you pay more tax. You don’t own any vehicles, you don’t pay any extra tax (except for the 0.1% sales tax, which, if you don’t buy expensive luxuries, amounts to pocket change). There seems to be an implicit assumption here that every adult person, regardless of income, owns exactly one vehicle. That is not true. Wealthier people tend to own more vehicles per capita.

      • John Slyfield says

        A regressive tax implies that for every dollar you earn, you spend less. Let’s say you have $30,000. You need a car to get to work. You pay the fee of $300. Your effective tax rate is now 1% of your income. Let’s say you get another job somewhere else, so you go out and you trade in your car for a new car that’s twice as expensive. However, a big chunk of your tabs are paid in a flat fee. We’ll say $200 of it. The car is twice as expensive as the previous car you had. So take the remaining $100 and you double it, add that back to the $200, gives you $400. Your NEW effective tax rate is now 0.67% You now pay less of your income in tabs. That’s what it means for a regressive tax.

  8. Glenn in Portland says

    Has anyone done a trace back on where the funding for the No campaign is coming from?

    One of our local anti-transit measures got a lot of funding from the “Oregon Transformation Project” which could be traced back further to being funded by one of the lumber companies.

    • L Anderson says

      Glen in Portland asks where the money comes from to fund the opposition. I have heard but not confirmed that the car dealers might be one of the parties funding it. I’m sure they’d love to see prop 1 fail. I HAVE seen a 2011 Metro rider-non-rider survey in which 52% of bus riders said they would drive alone in their cars if the bus was not available, and 1 out of 3 regular Metro riders said they’d buy one or more cars if their bus was not available. Follow the money….?

  9. says

    Holy shit. Tell me this isn’t what it actually says. Conflict of interest much? This is the kind of thing Tim Eyman would write.

    Is there a way to call BS on this con listing, and claim that it is highly biased (this is EXTREMELY biased), or at the very least incorrect? Because this is very bad. I am disgusted with these kinds of people.

    Are the pro listings any good?

    • Brent says

      The link in the article provides the Pro statement and rebuttal to the Con Statement, in addition to the Con Statement and rebuttal to the pro statement.

  10. G Travis says

    The Legislators of Washington State have failed to lead and provide solutions for the States transportation needs. King County government and its citizens are taking the lead to correct this failure. We have this opportunity to address a crisis Olympia chose to ignore. The five-dollar a month impact on most households is well worth the investment if it keeps this transit system moving, growing and healthy.

    This attempt to sway voters with misleading calculations is so typical of those that have little concern for others. When they don’t have truth on their, side what else can they do?… How about just keep quiet…

  11. Sam says

    Let me see if I got this right. The pro Prop 1 people don’t agree with the con’s arguments?

    • RossB says

      They don’t agree with the accuracy of the supposed facts.

      They also don’t agree with the arguments, but that was a given. I personally think the con people need a copy editor (they sound like buffoons, which they may very well be).

    • Brent says

      I could have sworn the Eastside Transportation Association opposed light rail because express buses are cheaper and could served more destinations (or so they claimed). So, now, ETA is trying to defund the express buses, too?

      • DrewJ says

        Yes. Many of their arguments against ST2 (and Roads & Transit) were based on that freeway-based BRT was cheaper and better than LRT. And now when it comes to their preferred transit mode, they’re against funding it.

      • G Travis says

        I have just read The Seattle Times account of the “gathering in Bellevue”, addressing the issue of the upcoming King County Transit Prop 1 ballot measure. This account made my blood boil. Everything I have read from those that oppose the County measure for transit funding uses seriously flawed support data addressing how the Metro Transit system operates. This negative attack attempts to discredit a system that has been recognized as one the best in the country with awards of recognition for innovation, management, and overall performance and service to the public.
        These voices of opposition choose to ridicule and attack, to make fun of individuals and give bogus emotional verbiage to sway the, oh-so-willing-to-be-swayed minds of those in attendance. It is a common tactic to confuse and lead those that may be undecided.
        Kudos go out to Ron Posthuma for entering this biased shark tank to address questions and opinions regarding transit and the importance of this ballot measure.
        Mr. Posthuma, with his years of service to the Metro System, brings understanding and knowledge based on actual on-the-job experience with a large and proud transit system. He is a credible source. Mr. Dick Paylor, a Bellevue based real estate executive that most likely has never used the bus for his transportation needs, is not a credible source. Based on credentials, it amazes me that Mr. Paylor would even attempt to address this issue, but to do so with his lack of factual information or solutions is just not credible.
        What does Mr. Paylor really know of how Metro is managed? His assertions are weak. To use the example that he has seen buses in service with few or no passengers to support his claim of mismanagement is obviously naïve, if not ignorant. He has little or no real understanding as to why this occurs. Does he know that some buses are on the road driving what is called a deadhead route from base to terminal where in route service begins. Some are rural service routes carrying few riders and based on supply and demand logic and common sense.
        Where is Mr. Paylor’s social conscience? Does he think about social justice and how many need the bus just to get to work, school, medical appointments, church, and grocery store? Not everyone has a car. This is public transportation, which needs support of the public. His opposition appears to be more about self and his own pocketbook, than it is about his concern of how Metro is managed, and its efficiencies. My bet is, he has an expensive vehicle he likes to drive, doesn’t want to spend any more of what he thinks is hard earned income to support a system he doesn’t even use.

        The naysayers can’t have it both ways! They complain that there is inequity as to who gets the service, proportionate to the tax dollars collected. Based on ridership and usage, it’s a fact, some rural areas have fewer buses. Some of those buses have fewer riders, but as a public entity supported by tax dollars, Metro responds to the public need and expectations. Even though it is not supported by fare box revenue, the buses and other service are provided. If they were not, that would, in my opinion, validate a claim of inequitable use of taxation. How will those without means of transportation get to jobs, medical appointments, etc? What will happen to our already congested streets when bus service is cancelled? What will Mr. Paylor say when his taxes go up to support getting people to doctors and jobs without public transportation and who will he attack when the streets are too congested to get to his destination?
        The Legislators of Washington State have failed to lead and provide solutions for the States transportation needs. King County government and its citizens are taking the lead to correct this failure. We have this opportunity to address a crisis Olympia chose to ignore. The five-dollar a month impact on most households is well worth the investment if it keeps this transit system moving, growing and healthy.
        A yes vote for Transit funding Prop 1 is a vote that will benefit all of us. Even those that prefer and can afford to use a personal vehicle instead of the bus. Improvements to roads are part of the package, along with reduced traffic congestion. We live in an amazing region. Quality of life encompasses many factors and good transportation systems are a big part of it. Don’t be short sighted on this issue. Do not be swayed by the Tim Eymans, the Dick Paylors, the Rodney Toms, and the Will Knedliks. These individuals are willing to dismantle or cripple Metro to make a buck or save a buck for personal gain! They do not care about you, your transportation system, and the people served by the system, nor those who may lose jobs. Vote Yes Prop 1 April 22, 2014!

    • Glenn in Portland says

      Against: Will Knedlik, Dick Paylor*, Jerry Galland

      Yes, but the e-mail address is “TruthInTaxation@aol.com”. I assume that Truth in Taxation is the name of a political action group. It would be interesting if the money supporting that group could be traced back to its origin. Unfortunately the name is so generic that Google is useless for trying to track it down in public records.

      At least when Loren Parks (a Las Vegas businessman that funds anti-transit campaigns in Oregon every once in a while) has a political group it is usually a name unique enough that it can be traced through public records back to the source of the funds. Usually, it is two or three organizations removed from each other, but it is usually possible to trace it back to its origin.

    • Elaine says

      Kinda hard to read this article in the Times, when they have been hounding me to subscribe and now have denied access! Why not tell us, in your own words, what’s up?

  12. RDPence says

    Oppo statement must have been written by people who never ride public transit, not even if their life depended on it.

  13. JamieS says

    How does a group get to write the statement for or against? Can just anyone submit a statement? What if multiple groups submit statements? I’m sure this group was chosen for their impressive web site.

    “It works!

    This is the default web page for this server.

    The web server software is running but no content has been added, yet.”

    • DrewJ says

      familiesfortransit(dot)org actually has an anti-Prop 1 website. But the group associated with the site is not listed on the Public Disclosure Commissions website yet… Hmm.

      • JamieS says

        Oh, dot org. They probably should’ve proofread their statement a bit better.

        Their “coalition” names (but doesn’t link to) 4 groups, none of which can be found with a Google search. These guys are looking extremely shady.

  14. djw says

    This is ridiculous. Of course authors of such statements should be given more or less free rein to spin the facts their way, but they shouldn’t be permitted to obviously and straightforwardly lie about factual matters. The 1500% increase claim, in particular, should not have been permitted.

  15. Bernie says

    I just came from the Move King Co Now meet-up in Bellevue. Free beer is a sure fire way to get votes! The big problem I see with getting this to pass is the 60/40 revenue split. So 3X the hit to car owners, many of which are paying for multiple tabs (got a motorcycle you ride weekends in the summer, caching) nets only $36 for transit and $24 for the Pave King Co Now lobby. A windfall that’s resulted in the braindead NO campaign. Drive alone car owners (outside of Seattle) are overwhelmingly going to reject this as will a good percentage of the Seattle pro-transit base. Why do they need an 80% increase over the current Metro funding AND more money for roads than Metro was getting from the $20 tab fee just to dodge cuts?

    I look at routes that could be cut and I see the 236 as a standout since it’s one I’m familiar with. This should be cut. It’s an empty bus serving areas that are mostly covered by other much more productive routes. When you’ve got routes like this acting as a poster child for inefficiency and sales tax revenue is at record high levels in King Co. it’s really hard to see why this tax increase is needed to stave off cuts and add more to the billions of dollars in highway funding. Take that 40% for roads and promise free beer and I think the measure would stand a fighting chance.

  16. Janine K. says

    If I calculate correctly, I will be paying $66.75 with all the add ons to renew the car tabs this year for my 96 Mercury Tracer sedan. If prop 1 passes I’ll pay approximately $126.75 plus emissions testing ($15) next year. Sounds fair except I’m failing to support myself on my $27000 annual income working full time in Seattle as it is. I don’t know if I would qualify for the low income “rebate” but frankly, it sounds little more than an political appeasing gesture. Having utilized KC Metro bus, vanpool and Community Transit intensively in my younger years, you’d think I’d be 1st in line to vote YES. But times are hard right now and I’m lucky to be able to drive to work for a swing shift and not have to be out on foot in the dark after 10pm. When I was 30, 40 I was more willing to put up with the time spent, the elements and the BS on the buses than I am now pushin’ 60. I don’t ride the bus anymore than absolutely necessary these days due to my desire for comfort, safety and a lack of patience for the lack of civility of some passengers on board and the reluctance of drivers to babysit them and I *don’t* blame the drivers for that!. I realize this issue is far broader than my personal preferences regarding riding Metro but now that you have allowed me to write and think this through, I’M leaning towards NO because it is a regressive tax which does in fact place the bulk of the financial burden on those of us who make s***t for wages but who have managed still to hold on to a personal vehicle. and yes, I do consider the very real possibility of having to give up my car and potentially be dependent on transit again in the near future.

    • William C. says

      I seem to recall the low-income car tabs rebate goes up to 200% of the federal poverty level. Since I don’t know your household size, I can’t say whether you’d qualify, but your $27,000 income would qualify you assuming there’re two people in your household.

    • Elaine says

      Right on, Janine! It sure is a stiff price for us to pay for Metro Transit. I’d much rather see car tab fee increases that mirror the vehicle’s Blue Book value. If you are driving a BMW or a Lexus, then pony up.

      • Janine K. says

        Yes, I remember the pre Eyman initiative days of tab fees linked to car value. I don’t know if that’s a good solution, but I would definitely be a winner in that scheme. What do y’all think? I was a carless transit rider then and was directly impacted after his 695 initiative was voted in by my fellow WA state citizens. Critical service was slashed within Community Transit and remained that way for years I believe.

      • Elaine says

        I sure wish Tim Eyman would be at the Tesoro refinery when it has another hiccup. That jerk has ruined the initiative process here in Wash. State. Tesoro is paying him well to mess up the laws.

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