Yesterday, Senate Transportation Committee Chair Curtis King unveiled his own transportation proposal to compete with the bill that’s currently being tossed around in the House. The House bill, HB 1954, would allow King County to raise a 1.5% MVET– 60% for Metro, 40% for roads– but only by voter approval. The gripe of many on this blog is that the provisions for transit are welded to a massively disproportional allocation to new roads, which has put many transit advocates in a quandary.
Any silver lining that exists in the House bill is vanquished by the Senate proposal, which contains no state money for transit, pedestrians, or cyclists. And instead of allowing the more sustainable and progressive MVET to fund local transit, Sen. King is proposing to raise the sales tax ceiling from 0.9% to 1.2%. In a perfect world, the 0.3% increase is probably enough to plug Metro’s budget hole of $60 million/year. That perfect world, however, would have to be immune to recessions and have no poor people in it.
The reality, of course, is that shifting primarily to sales tax for revenue is partly the reason why we got into this mess in the first place. Social justice advocates should also cringe at the proposal, which effectively increases the tax burden on the poor. As the Senate transportation package is coming from a staunch transit opponent, I see little reason for transit advocates to take this proposal seriously.