Photo by zargoman

Earlier this month, the many jurisdictions in King County banded together to present a unified transportation proposal (.pdf) to be considered before the State Legislature.  The proposal, signed off by the county, the City of Seattle, and the Sound Cities Association (all the other suburban cities in the county), is a direct ask for local funding options primarily through leveraging a sizable gas tax increase that would mostly benefit the State.

There are three specific elements to the proposal:

  • An 8-cent statewide gax tax increase, with a 65/35 split between state and local needs, respectively.
  • An increase of councilmanic authority to directly impose a vehicle license fee (VLF) from $20 to $40 in Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD).  Anything remaining out of $100 could be brought before the voters.
  • A 1.5% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) that could be passed councilmanically or by popular vote.  According to Fred Jarrett, 60% of the MVET would go to Metro, while the remaining would be divvied up among the county and cities for roads.

Gas tax proposal (and all accompanying opinions) aside, the asks are fairly significant.  Doubling the councilmanic VLF authority to $40 could arguably ease pressure off any remaining VLF increase that would go before a public vote.  And as Martin mentioned earlier this year, a 1% MVET alone would be sufficient to plug Metro’s annual deficit of $60 million.  An additional 0.5% on top of that could presumably go toward a substantial service increase*.

The proposal is among many that the Legislature will have to juggle for the upcoming session, so the chances that King County will get everything it wants is extremely slim.  Any funding authority will also have to clear both the Senate and the House, which will be no mean feat of its own.

*We can assume an effective 0.9% MVET for Metro assuming it gets a 60% share of the proposed 1.5% rate.  A 1% MVET is estimated to generate up to $100 million annually, so some back-of-the-napkin math gives us $90 million a year for Metro, more than enough to cover the deficit.

41 Replies to “King County Pushes Its Own Legislative Proposal”

  1. Glad to see Seattle, the County and the suburban cities working together like this. Hopefully such a unified front can push transit through what is likely to be a dysfunctional legislature (especially Senate).

  2. Sherwin: Please check your third paragraph; 100 percent of one percent MVET would be more than 60 percent of 1.5 percent MVET.

  3. the asks are fairly significant

    “Ask” is not a noun. It is, however, very much like nails on a chalkboard.

    1. The traditional word is “request”. However, apparently the local dialect in Seattle uses “ask” as a synonym for “request”.

      1. I was being snarky. I have no idea what the local dialect in Seattle does (hence “apparently”).

      2. I hear it used that way frequently in non-profit circles. Prior to that it was not an expression I had heard, and I grew up here.

    2. And Ask is a noun – if you are talking about the first man made from an ash tree by the Scandinavian gods.

      1. It occurs to me that this may not be a publicly viewable page. Here’s some of the text for your convenience:

        ask, n.1

        Forms: OE æsce, ME axe, (?) as.

        Etymology: Old English ǽsce , < áscian (see ask v.); compare Old Dutch esch. Asis probably = ash or ask: see the vb.(Show Less)

        Thesaurus » Asking, inquiry; thing asked, request.

        a1000 Laws of Athelstan §5 in B. Thorpe Anc. Laws Eng. I. 230 Hæfdon ealle ða ǽscean.

        a1230 Juliana 16 He failed of his as.

        c1275 (1200) Laȝamon Brut (Calig.) (1963) l. 529 Eouer axe ich eow leue.

        1781 T. Twining Let. 8 Dec. in Recreat. & Stud. (1882) 108, I am not so unreasonable as to desire you to..answer all my asks.

        1886 ‘Cavendish’ Princ. Whist 127 When your three comes down in the next round, it is not an ask for trumps.

        1987 Sydney Morning Herald 7 May 40/2 Four measly pounds is what the critics say. But according to his trainer, Johnny Lewis, that four pounds is ‘a big ask’.

        1994 J. Birmingham He died with Felafel in his Hand (1997) viii. 177 I'd..get him to wear the underpants consistently for six weeks on the road. (This was not a big ask given Milo's unwashed jeans-wearing record at King Street.)

        2000 Rugby World June 25/1 It was a huge ask of my players, but their attitude throughout the week prior to the game was superb.

        2003 Gloucester Citizen (Nexis) 1 Feb. 48 Every week is a bit of an ask—but the squad is very strong.

      2. I am well aware that in tech circles “ask” has become synonymous with “request” or “task”, typically spouted off by mid-level managers trying to sound erudite or hip or something. I am part of the shrinking cabal of people who go online to perform the petty (and Sisyphean) task of correcting people on word usage we find abhorrent. Join us!

    1. Not sure we tax gax in this state, but I’m all for it if it’s a stable revenue stream. :P

      Thanks, fixed.

  4. The MVET authority should be extended to the PTBAs as well… Metro shouldn’t get bailed out while many other transit systems in the state are taking severe cuts.

  5. Is Washington the only state where “Councilmanic” is a word? It sounds *really really weird* from over on the other sid eof the country.

      1. It’s not an adjective used where I live. We would refer to “council authority” and a tax which could be passed “by city council”.

      2. Chicago has “aldermanic authority”, but that refers to things which can be done by *one single alderman by himself*.

        From what I can tell from context, that’s not what your “councilmanic authority” means — it doesn’t mean that a single council member can unilaterally impose a tax only on his council district, does it?

      3. “Councilmatic”? That’s less weird, but it’s still weird!

        “Councilmanic” sounds like “councilmen gone wild”, but “councilmatic” sounds like the automated robot council.

  6. Does anyone know the formula that would be used for the MVET that is being proposed? One of the big complaints that helped 695 pass in the now distant past was that it valued cars much higher than what they were actually worth. A car’s value goes down much more quickly in the early years of purchase and the formula didn’t reflect this as the state used a straight line depreciation method.

    1. It’s the old formula, which has still been in place and used to calculate “use tax”, a sales-tax replacement collected by Licensing when a car is sold from one private party to another with no physical bill of sale to prove the true purchase price.

      It’s a very simplistic formula based on age and original sale price, which tends to significantly overvalue passenger sedans (that have very high rates of depreciation), while undervaluing station wagons, coupes, and pickup trucks (that tend to have much lower rates of depreciation).

      I’d like to see it changed from the current formula to some standard annual published guide, like the NADA guide or Kelley Blue Book, but I’m not hopeful that it will ever happen.

  7. My #1 choice: councilmanic MVET for all jurisdictions with PBTA
    My #2 choice: councilmanic $40 VLF

    If a gas tax is presented, I will vote “no”. So that’s not “choice #3”. Not becuase I think a gas tax is bad, but because the State’s current murky definition and implementation is largely anti-transit.

  8. I would push for property tax.

    Washington does not fairly tax property yet its citizens demand premium government services while shirking their tax obligations on property and instead childishly look to shift the burden around on each other instead of ponying up like they should.

    1. Ummm…you know, there’s the whole 1%-maximum-increase-annually-on-property-taxes-Tim-Eyman iniatitive on the books still. That totally straps our hands from adequately increasing taxes when needed and property taxes have massively faultered in the economy. Not only that, it doesn’t discourage useage of roads, which the MVET, gas tax, and VLF would do (for whatever their individual flaws). Those forms of taxes are more closely related to transportation funding. People get the nexus on them.

      1. If anything, that restriction on property valuation of property is obviously more unfair because it creates a two-tier society. Newcomers pay the absolute maximum tax per square foot, while old timers are grandfathered in.

        I’m really surprised that the court system has never challenged it and thrown it out.

      2. Q. How does the 1 percent limit affect property taxes on individual homes?

        The 1 percent limit applies to the maximum increase in tax revenue levied by an individual taxing district. It does not apply to individual homes, which tend to increase in assessed valuations at varying rates depending on location and other factors. Taxes on individual homes could increase by more or less than 1 percent depending on how they change in value relative to other properties in a district.

        So my argument is Fair Use. If someone builds an 8 unit condo next to a SFH then that SFH should then be taxed as if the owner also had an 8 unit condo because that is what the land could theoretically support. I would be the Best Use monetarily. Same with open acreage next to a housing development.

      3. Q. How do property taxes stack up against personal income and taxes in other states?

        Property taxes relative to income have varied over the years but over time have kept in line with personal incomes. In 2005, the most recent year for which national comparisons are available, Washingtonians paid $30.60 in property taxes per $1,000 of personal income. At that time, Washington ranked 28th highest among the states. In 1995, property taxes were $36.30 per $1,000 for a ranking of 24th highest. In 1985, they were $32.59 per $1,000 of personal income, or 24th-highest in national ranking. Thus, Washington usually ranks halfway between the highest and lowest states in property taxes relative to income.

        So here is the crux of the problem.

        Washington wants to be a Real Blue State with premium government services..but it will not fairly tax its property owners!

        Hence it either begs Federal money or continues to extract pennies from the poorest class through sales taxes and tolls!!

        Not fixing this problem results in the current kleptocracy.

      4. “If someone builds an 8 unit condo next to a SFH then that SFH should then be taxed as if the owner also had an 8 unit condo because that is what the land could theoretically support.”

        So the SFH owner will push for restrictive zoning and obstruct the permitting process, to prevent his own taxes from going up. :) As if he weren’t NIMBY enough already.

        Why not extend this principle to all land? East Hill could support midrise density all along 104th, so let’s tax all existing parcels at that level. That might bring density sooner. Oh, wait, Bailo is against densifying 104th.

      5. John, you are describing traditional “highest and best use” principles of property taxation.

        However, with the Eyman / Howard Jarvis style caps on property taxes, that’s not what gets done. Sigh.

      6. Mike, if my mind serves me: 104th is already zoned mixed-used, general commercial, and multi-family (depending upon the plot of land). The same is the case along portions of Kent-Kangley/Canyon Drive. The problem is willing property owners to invest, a cohesive business community, organised neighbours (which there definitely aren’t), and district zoning that would actually incentivise redevelopment.

    1. Of course not. It’s already too damn expensive in King County for transit. Raising them any further would be criminal. Well, except adding a penalty fare for cash.

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