A bipartisan group of Senators yesterday announced that they had reached agreement on most elements of a transportation package that included authorization for Sound Transit 3. The authorized tax levels were lower than the Sound Transit request, which limits the potential size of the package and increases the reliance on sales tax. However, the agreement would still allow the agency to proceed with a package roughly the size of Sound Transit 2 (ST2).
The Senate agreement would permit up to $11 billion in tax revenue over 15 years. There is some confusion resulting from there being two different $15 billion sums in the discussion. The original Sound Transit request is for $15 billion, would provides room for the Board to explore which tax types are least unpopular and find the optimal package size.
The second $15 billion is a potential overall capital project package size, which ST staff used in an exercise and Martin speculatively mapped to projects. Staff picked this number because it was the same size as ST2 and therefore considered politically practical, but the ST board has not decided on the package’s size. Due to bond financing, a $15 billion package requires about $9 billion in taxing authority.
In other words, the lower authorization restricts Sound Transit’s options. If enacted into law, the agreement means that ST3 would be largely supported by an increase in the sales tax, with smaller increases in the MVET and property tax, and there would be much less scope to go beyond the size of ST2.