Page 3 of this document provides important details that I haven’t seen reported elsewhere. There’s relief for Metro and other transit agencies in addition to a whole lot of highway maintenance spending.

The spending will go on:

»»  State operations and maintenance to maintain 90 percent of state highway pavement in fair or good condition, operate ferry service and preserve bridges to avoid weight or traffic limitations – $2.67 billion
»» Grant funding for cities and counties to address critical pavement and bridge structure needs – $310 million
»» Grant funding for transit to mitigate potential service cuts to passengers that would affect their ability to get to work, school and other destinations – $150 million
»» Stormwater retrofit projects to prevent polluted stormwater from reaching Puget Sound – $250 million
»» Washington State Patrol to prevent the elimination of up to 12 percent of the trooper workforce that keeps our highways safe – $200 million
»» Passenger rail to help operate service on Amtrak trains – $100 million

And the one new, big chunk of revenue authority:

»» Either allow local governments the option, through councilmatic approval, to impose a 1 percent increase in the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, with proceeds to be dedicated to local road and transit needs, or allow transportation benefit districts the option, through councilmatic approval, to adopt up to a $40 vehicle license fee for local road and transit needs.

Other revenue sources, mainly fees, are listed at the end of the post. Reaction after the jump.

This is a “fix-it-first” package, which is fine it itself. You’d always love to see forward progress on longer-term projects, but that isn’t included here. The $150m is spread over 10 years and likely to spread over every county in the state, and therefore too small to make any real difference in large systems. Some of the pavement money will relieve pressure on transportation budgets in Seattle, and elsewhere, that could be used for other good things.

The big question is whether or not the revenue authority makes the agencies whole or not. The answer is complicated.

First of all, if the new revenue somehow turns out to be VLF, it won’t accomplish much. Cities and Counties can both create TBDs and draw from the same revenue authority. So what will happen is that Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, and so on will take theirs to address their needs, and there won’t be much left for the county. $20 assessed county wide generates about $27m per year if the whole County is covered, and Metro’s annual deficit will be $60m when the CRC expires.

Estimates for 1% MVET revenue range from $100m to $130m to year in King County. That’s enough to cover the budget gap, but that 1% was previously promised as part of the Deep Bore Tunnel deal to address traffic diversion from the tunnel. So in fact, you’re asking Metro to mitigate that crisis and deal with its own funding problems. But it would move Metro’s situation from pure catastrophe to somewhat underfunded, which is significant progress.

As a side note, it’s also a pleasant surprise that none of that authority would require a public vote. The package can focus on what works best rather than what would win the most votes. We’ll see what the state legislature does with this raw material.

Here are the other revenue sources:

»» Impose an oil barrel fee of $1.50. The $2.75 billion raised would be dedicated to operations, maintenance of the state transportation system and stormwater retrofits.
»» Impose a fee of $100 on each electric vehicle. Because electric vehicles owners do not pay gas tax, they contribute little to the maintenance of our roads. The $10 million raised would be spent on operations and maintenance; $1.5 million would be invested in a pilot project to identify an equitable way to raise revenue from electric vehicle operators.
»» Impose an additional 15 percent increase on the heavy commercial vehicle combined license fee. This increase mitigates the erosion of the existing fee caused by inflation. The $177 million raised would be invested in pavement preservation.
»» Impose an additional $15 base passenger vehicle weight fee. The $760 million raised would be directed to the Washington State Patrol, public transit, passenger rail service and local governments.

40 Replies to “The Governor’s Proposal”

  1. The electric vehicle one is stupid. If it’s truly electric, it’s saving at least $100 per year in emissions externalities.

    1. Unfortunately, you can’t pay construction workers in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality.

      1. This goes back to the goofy way we fund roads. Gas taxes should be handled like any other tax and go to the general fund. And roads should be build when we want/need them by the same process we build anything else.

        Having a seperate tax-and-spend system for roads is a bad idea.

      2. @Matt the Engineer — I agree, but I think it would require changing the state constitution.

      3. Next time I’m not voting for any governor that doesn’t have a pro-gondola platform.

    2. It’s true that gasoline taxes support road construction and maintenance. It’s not true that they fund a majority thereof. So the claim that owners of electric vehicles “contribute little to the maintenance of our roads” is a falsehood. We hear that falsehood a lot in venues such as talk radio. To hear it come out of the governor’s office is disappointing. Shall we also tax shoes, scooters, bicycles, and roller skates?

      1. Sure, but the majority you’re referring to is paid for by everyone, whether they use the roads a lot, sparingly, or not at all. It makes sense that people who drive should pay a larger share because they’re contributing to congestion, which has economic costs for all of us, and also because they’re contributing to the degradation of the road surface. Scooters arguably do that too, to a smaller degree, but your other examples are in a completely different class.

  2. Regardless of saving on emission externalities, electric vehicles still need to support the maintenance of the pavement under their wheels.

    They’re not paying the gas tax, and the taxes paid on the electricity don’t go (at least not 100%) to transportation funding.

    1. Yes, but why should I get an all-you-can-eat pass for roads for $100? That hardly seems fair either. We really need to switch to a vehicle miles traveled tax.

      1. I’d be in favor of a return to reasonable vehicle license fees. The idea that the owner of a Hummer pays the same tab fee in Seattle as the owner of a 1973 Springer is flat-out ludicrous.

    2. What Velo said. In general, the right solution to these kind of taxing issues is to *remove* special cases, rather than add them.

      Currently, we have a tax on gas, and we use it to regulate and fund road construction and use. Electric vehicles don’t use gas, but do use roads. Solution: tax roads, and then all road users pay their fare share.

      1. Solution – tax vehicles (including bicycles), then all road users pay their fair share.

      2. Solution – tax road users (including bicycles, shoes, strollers), then all road users pay their fair share.

      3. road taxes should only be paid by people who cause it to wear out through usage … strollers, and more importantly feet, do not

      4. Feet do cause wear and tear. There are limestone steps in the Margalla Hills worn smooth and blue due to at least several hundred years of foot traffic.

        More locally, removing the generous parking tax refunds and other subsidies offered to those whose transportation choice cause orders of magnitude more damage to the public via brute weight, noise, toxic fumes, and random carnage would be a good first step towards fair share taxing.

  3. Mixed feelings on the electric charge – should just be standard license tabs.

    But until they kill the 99 Tunnel we can’t afford, there will be a massive gaping hole in WSDOT and SDOT funding no amount of tolls will fill, since 520 is still not fully funded.

    Kill that if you want the voters to approve it in a General Election, as opposed to a Primary.

    1. Plus by my reading it would compel Sound Transit to defease the outstanding bonds backed by MVET revenue by selling off assets. Fun times all around.

      1. I’d love to see an initiative that requires paid signature gatherers be paid on an hourly basis, plus benefits, and unemployment contributions. Anything that makes signature gathering more expensive would slow Eyman down.

      2. Of course unionized, higher paid signature gathers would spend their money (because it’s unlikely that they’ll get enough to save any) which will spur the local economy, raising sales tax revenue, which provides more funding for transit and roads…. Eyman funds his own worst enemy..

  4. This isn’t close to as bad as predicted by the post earlier today. I’m not in love with several aspects, but overall despite not having much benefit at least it doesn’t seem to do much damage.

    Of course we need real funding and self-taxing options from the state, but I wouldn’t expect to get them from this governor.

    (oh, and we’re saving state troopers while giving teachers pink slips? )

  5. Is “councilmatic approval” a special Washington State politics term of art? It looks REALLY weird, like some sort of alien robot has to approve!

    1. The word they are looking for is “councilmanic”, which is indeed in the dictionary, but apparently someone in the Governor’s office misheard it.

      1. Huh!

        Here in the East they’d just say “council approval”. Public votes etc. are a special case, and an unusual one, which is called out explicitly whenever it is relevant.

  6. Just my personal opinion – but the 1% MVET should go to the transit agencies and the $40 authorization should go to the cities and jurisdictions. Or is “transportation benefit district” some broader term that encompasses more than agencies like Community Transit, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, etc.?

  7. Tax all tires, batteries and windshield wipers. Electric cars need all this stuff, especially the batteries (Sorry Autozone). Besides, batteries are going to cause their own hazard to the environment. Put a progressive tax on electric bills. As electric cars become more common we can re-coupe some lost gas tax from electricity use, especially from public charging stations. Utilities are in essence replacing the petro suppliers.

    1. We need a bigger picture solution, and not just incremental tax increases to offset losses. For highway funding the first part of the equasion should be variable rate tolling; and based on weight for large Commercial motor vehicles. Secondly, motorists and businesses should be given an option, of higher flat weight and fee based tabs, or a Vehicle Miles Travelled Tax based on the vehicles weight and obviously miles travelled. This would be a more fair alternative to those who drive less. So realistcally you’d still be paying the gasoline tax, tolls based on where/when/what you drive, and some form of flat weight fee or mileage based tax.

  8. Okay, so some clarification please. Is the $3.68 Billion laid out in the post the total for the package? Is this the same from what was earlier believed to be in the package?

    Am I reading correctly that there is no money for new roads?

  9. Impose an oil barrel fee of $1.50. The $2.75 billion raised would be dedicated to operations, maintenance of the state transportation system and stormwater retrofits.

    Umm, this sort of ignores the $2.6 billion still unfunded for SR-520 and the DBT. I guess that’s the advantage of not seeking reelection; you leave paying for your legacy projects to the next poor schmuck.

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