This bill, which we’ve mentioned a few times in the past, would allow two things very important to funding transit: The first, not under fire here, is the provision to allow King County Council to increase the ferry district property tax to help fund Metro.

I’ve just gotten word, however, that the governor plans to veto the provision allowing new local car tab fees (up to $20) to help fund transit. This could be used to help any transit agency in the state, and as it requires a public vote to approve I don’t really see how this is anything but Olympia dictating to local governments, yet again.

Can’t we get any progressives around here?

53 Replies to “Governor Plans Partial Veto of SB 5433”

  1. Horrible, horrible woman. And shame on Marr and whoever else lobbied to get this veto.

    1. You mean the ferry district? Do take note, it already exists, this lowers the cap on the money the county can spend without a public vote.

      1. Lowers the max (which they’re not even close to for ferries) and opens the door to increased property taxes for other projects without a vote.

      2. I don’t see how it opens any door. The door to increasing property taxes without a public vote is already wide open – the county council can do it for ferries at any time.

        I’m not sure what you’re complaining about here?

      3. A door that should be boarded shut. The problem’s not revenue, it’s spending. Metro has spent what voters are willing to approve and now King County wants a hidden tax to keep spending more. If the voters are so willing then why didn’t the legislature send a referendum to the people to allow an increase in maximum local sales tax?

        At least with the car tabs people have a chance to see where their money is going. King County goes to great lengths to advertise how “limited” they are in property tax collections. I think the vast majority of residents would be appalled to find out that ad valorem tax levies are being used to fund sightseeing boats on Elliot Bay and now they want to take than money and supplement a transit budget that’s already more than what’s spent on Public Safety and Health and Human Services combined.

      4. The problem is revenue. The voters didn’t just approve a tax rate, they also approved an acceptable level of service. There is hardly no recourse here: if voters disapprove of the transit property tax then they can elect new King County Council members who could overturn the funding source. We’ve elected representatives who have decided that keeping an acceptable amount of transit service is a vital public good. They are correct.

        We also spend more on transit than we spend on protecting infants from lions and bears. What odd priorities we have in this region!

      5. …a transit budget that’s dwarfed by our gas tax budget, money we also don’t vote on?

      6. Although, tourism generates revenue for transit via the sales tax. The West Seattle ferriers are also fairly cheap to operate compared to building a new bridge to West Seattle. Anything helps.

        If service is cut, people will complain. If fairs are raised, people will complain. If taxes are raised to help pay for the level of service people demand, people will complain.

      7. We did vote on the Nickel package. Remember, it was going to pay for among other things replacements for the steel electric ferries. Yeah sure; that money’s been swandered away. We can aford to fund tourist runs to Sidney (including paying the Canadians to send tourist dollars their way) but underfund State mandated school transportation by 100M. If we can send tourists to BC why can’t we use transportation dollars to send kids to school? No, that money has to come from the education budget.

        Contracting Argosy I’m betting will turn out to be far cheaper than the plan to purchase boats and turn this over to WSF for operations. If you don’t start programs like this nobody complains about them being cut.

      8. That’s what I said. But they are planning to take over operations which I’m betting will be more expensive than contracting. Certainly less flexible. Community Transit uses private contracts to provide ST service and charges less than King or Pierce counties. A lot less than King county.

      9. I don’t think that contracting versus not contracting necessarily causes that cost difference. CT serves the lowest cost of living areas of the three counties, and I bet they run more peak and less all-day service or something as well.

  2. Let’s wait and see if it really, really happens. It does seem like an ill-advised veto, so I’m wondering what the rationale might be. The vehicle tax proposal would require a public vote, for goodness’ sake.

    I understand that Bernie objects to the re-allocation of a previously-approved district-based (ferry) tax to transit. Fair enough, Bernie. You object. I whole-heartedly approve of this reallocation because:

    (1) the very idea that King County would/could allocate this amount of money (up to 75 cents per thousand of valuation) to local ferry transportation (water-based, salt and fresh, largely tourist service) when land-based transit is in such dire need of funds is just nuts; many of us were looking for a way to re-direct that authority; and

    (2) the public has been much more open to increased public spending when they know what service it will be spent on. As a general matter, in a representative democracy, it might be best if the representatives got to pick and choose among needs. But in the last 15 years or so, the public has made it pretty clear that they are more likely to support new or increased spending targeted to a favored service. I think they’ll approve if the KC Council decides to use this (truncated) authority to bolster METRO.

    So, of course, I think it’s quite possible the public would approve the car tab tax, if asked, knowing that it would support transit service. And I’ll be interested in hearing the rationale for the veto.

    /deb eddy

    1. You guys had to work really hard to come up with realistic and appropriate tax levels for this, it would be really depressing if she vetoes it

      1. Andrew: I’m not sure I’d call it realistic/appropriate; I’d call it what we could get leadership to agree to. I would’ve gone higher,especially if I could’ve gotten some further attention paid to how we change our metrics, find better measures for system performance. And much as you guys think legislators hate transit, I think you would’ve found quite a few people wishing we could’ve bumped the authority up a bit more.

        I am always going to be trying to figure out HOW we get a better transit system, all modes, which is why I keep coming back and checking in on this blog.

        And don’t be so hard on the Governor. She does NOT and has NOT lived in a truly urban area where transit is a way of life. Olympia is a lovely small town, but not really an urban hot spot, you know? And that’s pretty much been where she’s lived her whole professional life.


      2. Of course we’re going to be hard on the governor when she vetoes a vital part of a transit funding package. We wouldn’t be a very effective blog if we didn’t.

      3. In her defense, if it was just the $20 car tabs, she may have been trying to pre-emptively push off another Tim Eyman tax revolt or whatever.

        For some reason, car tabs are a really unpopular tax.

      4. I think car tabs are unpopular because they’re regressive and they don’t account for usage. I love transit; I go weeks without using my car, but transit isn’t to the point where I can just give up the car and get to some of the places I need to go. But car tabs cost me just as much as the guy who drives 30 miles to work every day. It just doesn’t seem very fair. If you don’t like paying a gas tax or a vehicle miles tax, you can drive less. There’s no recourse for the tab tax, except for the pretty drastic action of not having a car. Now I support 5433 because $20 just isn’t that much money in the scheme of things, but significantly larger amounts would gall me.

        For what it’s worth, I didn’t live in Washington in 1998 (and I wasn’t old enough to vote, regardless!) so I can’t say how I would have voted on I-695. Seems we lost a lot of good things because of that, but in an ideal world I’d choose a different way to fund transit.

      5. By that logic, cutting or ending the sales tax should be a higher priority. I choose not to own a car. I can’t choose not to buy anything in WA as long as I live here.

      6. No, no, you’re missing my point. Maybe I didn’t explain it well. It’s the all or nothing nature of it that bugs me. If I buy less stuff, reuse more, and realize that I really just don’t need that particular dohicky I’ll pay less sales tax. I can cut back and reduce the share of society’s resources I consume, and I feel rewarded by not having to contribute as much via taxes. This works for sales tax, gas taxes, vehicle miles traveled etc. But a high car tabs tax/fee just for having a car no matter how much I use it just feels unfair.

        The other really petty reason I would be annoyed by a high car tabs tax is that I initially registered my car in November. Which means I always renew them in November and I don’t really like the idea of having to shell out a lot of money for that in a month when I already have a ton of Christmas expenses. I told you it was petty! :)

      7. Another $20 a year for owning a car is a laugh. It should be $200. Our gas guzzler tax is badly outdated so hardly any cars are hit by it, and we charge the same sales tax on cars as clothes–in Norway or Finland sales tax on cars is 40%! That’s the direction we should be moving in. What do you pay for parking? That should be $200/mo. Have you looked at the IRS’ table on how much sales tax you can deduct by income level? It gets well into the thousands of dollars annually (for low income folks like me it’s about $550). I’d be happy to raise the gas tax instead (preferably in addition), but that’ll happen in WA when hell freezes over. All the items you buy in a year that are subject to sales tax don’t add up to the costs and damage done by buying/owning a car in the first place.

        Also, if you follow the logic above, you’d probably oppose income taxes because the less you choose to earn, the less you have to pay in taxes.

      8. If you’re right, I think we should be hard on the Governor until she starts realizing that her personal experiences aren’t good guides to urban policy.

      9. Amen!

        Gregoire did go to the UW in the 1960s, and she lived in a fraternity near campus, so she did live in a big-city urban environment. Of course that was 40 years ago and she must have walked to campus, so transit probably wasn’t a big part of her life then either.

      10. Whoops, Gregoire obviously did NOT live in a fraternity. Sorry, she lived in a sorority.

      11. Well, technically, sororities *are* fraternities also – just a subset.

      12. Wow, that last argument is shockingly poor. First of all, Gutless Gregoire is from Auburn, a suburb of Seattle. Second of all, Seattle is by far the biggest city in the state, generating much more than its share of the state’s economic activity and tax revenue. Seattle’s well-being should concern all lawmakers no matter where they have or haven’t lived. Look at congressional or legislative district maps–the vast majority of Washingtonians live around Puget Sound. This is an urban/suburban state. She’s representing Doc Hastings? Third of all, Governor Gutless is constantly claiming to be an environmental champion. And a champion for working families. She’s sold out both this year (Metro imposing three regressive fare increases in three years–what a win for transit, the environment, and the poor). Had I known a year ago what she was going to do in 2009, I would never have busted my ass to reelect her. I will not support her for public office again. And I’m a Democratic PCO.

      13. Having grown up in Olympia I think there is some truth to the Governor not really understanding urban issues due to the myopia of primarily living and working in Olympia for the past few decades.

        Transit in Olympia is primarily for people without cars and Evergreen State College students. Most state workers drive to work and most locals feel the solution to the problems of downtown Olympia is to make it even more auto-oriented.

        When I try to give a vision of Olympia based on Kirkland, Ballard, or even Bremerton the locals look at me as if I’m spouting crazy talk. The only thing they can see to “fix” downtown is to turn it into a suburban strip mall.

    1. I don’t think anyone was excited about her, we were just afraid of Rossi. He proposed raiding ST’s money to fund the 520 bridge. It wouldn’t have happened, but I think that represents what he thinks about transit agencies. I have no idea if he would have vetoed this legislation, though.

      1. [Rossi] proposed raiding ST’s money to fund the 520 bridge.

        Around here, we call that the “Chopp Plan”.

    2. It was either scum bag A or slightly-less-of-a-scum-bag B. At least B didn’t dislike transit and favor more roads at that time.

      Should have selected some random person!

      1. Na, I wouldn’t use that terminology when referring to Gregoire.

        Rep Eddy might be right about Gregoire not being fully aware of urban issues due to her extended time in Olympia, but I guarantee you that she is better than a lot of other options. For one thing, Gregoire appears to be committed to GHG reduction, and that is a very good thing that we should be able to leverage into more transit support.

        But, given that most of the people Gregoire represents live in urban and not rural settings, I’d say the onus is on all of us “urbanites” to be active and involved in properly educating her to our issues. Olympia is a nice little town, but it’s certainly not representative of the state. Gregoire needs to understand that.

      1. Jay Inslee.

        If the pool of potential governors consists of Senators (maybe, though it’s arguably a step down), members of Congress, statewide elected officials, and executives of one of the major urban counties, he’s really the only one who both has possible desire, a shot at winning, and is also pretty good on transit issues.

      2. Well whomever wins the King County Executive race this fall will be seen as a possible Governor candidate from the moment they win election.

        I do think Rep. Inslee is very likely a candidate for Governor in 2012, even if Gregiore decides to run for a third term. Rob McKenna is almost certainly running and he is likely to beat anyone except Inslee.

        Another future possibility would be Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. I’m not sure of his views on transit, but I like what I’ve seen of him on other issues. But I suspect he’d run for Congress before he’d run for Governor.

  3. What are Rob McKenna’s views on Transit?

    In November, looking at our poor choices for state executive, my wife thought that we should vote the two Lt. Gov candidates for Governor instead

    1. Haha, McKenna’s partly responsible for 40/40/20. He’s horrible.

    2. People make fun of Brad Owen – mostly because he seems a little too happy to have what looks like a really easy job – but at least he was hugely pro-transit.

      1. And don’t forget that it was the LT Gov who casted the deciding vote in favor of this bill to pass it out of legislature in the first place.

        I don’t know much about him besides him singing in a band that loves them some drug free songs. So I don’t know whether he voted yes solely to expand his power as an LT Gov (wanted to push this to a court ruling to confirm LTG can vote or not) or because he’s actually pro-transit (but I’m happy to see that Andrew says he is).

        But I do doubt that the Governor would have broken a 24-24 tie in favor of a transit tax. Even before today’s veto.

      2. He’s mostly horrible. He yukked it up at one of those teabag rallies. I’d love to recall Gregoire at this point, but we’d have to oust him first, like Kucinich’s effort to impeach Cheney first.

  4. So, deluge of communiques to Gregoire to save pro-transit provisions then? Perhaps remind her that the bill was going to be very anti-transit and basically kill East Link until this blog and others reported on it and the mainstream media picked up on it and Olympia raced to make it more pro-transit?

  5. Boy, such short-term memories ya’ll have…

    That 20.00 fee (actually with voter approval can be up to 100.00) can partially be attributed to a suggestion made at TCC’s Lobby Day a couple of years ago.

    The idea was for it to be for transportation uses, both roads and transit. There’s nothing that says it has to be county-wide. They can levy the fee at the county level, it only requires the formation of a transportation benefit area. No, not PTBA, but a new category that was formed with the legislation.

    There can be multiple transportation benefit areas in each county.

    The Governor was correct in vetoing the 20.00 proposal, as it would have created potential conflict with the current law.

    I wonder if too many of the lobbyists are from Evergreen, having taken Basketry and Non-toxic Intaglio printing more than once each.

    Either that, or the UW is cranking out butcher paper unsuitable for kitty litter box wrap.

    Brian Bradford
    Olympia, WA

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