Senator Curtis King (Yakima)

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.

43 Replies to “Curtis King Wants Sales Tax for Transit, Not MVETs”

  1. Let’s remember Curtis won’t support his own proposal as a State Senator.

    Let’s remember this is the same bully who came oh so close to shutting down transit in Northwest Washington State.

    State Senator Rodney Tom, fire this sonofagun and make yourself Transportation Committee Chairman. Even this Republican has had enough of political cowards who won’t stand behind their own proposals.

  2. Transportation for Washington sent out an action alert an hour ago about the Senate transportation budget.

    “Washington only works when all people have an opportunity to get to where we need to go. Transit, bike, pedestrian, and clean water infrastructure are critical for reducing congestion and creating stronger, healthier communities.

    We won’t bargain away these values.

    But yesterday the Senate released a proposal for new transportation revenue and how it would be spent.

    No money for transit
    No money for bicycling.
    No money for pedestrians.
    Nearly nothing for clean water infrastructure.
    And only temporary local funding options to prevent more bus cuts.

    This is not a compromise. It’s terrible. Today is the last day of the special session so we must get our message through immediately.”

  3. I believe the extended sales tax expires in 2018, so we get to do this again in 5 years. Whoopee!

    The real question, though, is whether the gas tax increase goes to the ballot. If so, we have a chance to stop this. I can’t find this proposal online anywhere.

      1. Lawmakers have learned the lesson that transportation referendums are a bad idea. If this passed I think an initiative to recall it would have broad support from the left and right.

      2. Sometimes, transportation referenda work. I think if we get any transit funding, we should take it and build upon it.

        State Senator Rodney Tom, clearly forgetting his constituents need transit 1,000 times more than Yakima, let this leech of a State Senator sit as Transportation Committee Chair. Geese, Senator Tom, didn’t you see the obvious about this guy?

  4. Oh. I guess before you know it, well, half of the sales tax you pay will be for transit!
    But really, why only sales tax? Why are they only giving us that? They really can’t find anything else? The legislators in this state need to grow up.

    But, this isn’t that bad of a deal. If metro can pass a total 1.2% sales tax, then that means that Metro’s revenue intake will increase by 18%, which would totally alleviate the coming cuts. Going forward, metro can do well permanently on a 1.2% tax, by setting a maximum service limit. During good economic times, they could stockpile money into their vaults, and when the economy tanks, they could spend that money to keep service constant, and hopefully could bridge the gap back to good times. Use the mountains to fill the canyons.

    1. Oh, wait, that also expires in 3 years? What the ____, they really don’t give a darn about transit do they?? Are they really just going to try to shove temporary stuff down our throats until they can find a way to screw us over without voting them out? Is that their plan? Bull****.

  5. Ignorant and insulting: “The car tab, MVET (motor-vehicle excise tax) puts all of the monkey on the back of the person that wants to drive a car. … I think of transit as being more of a social issue, and a sales tax socializes that cost.” In Yakima County, sure, transit is probably 99% a social services issue, but in King County surely he should know better:

    Does he know that 43% of downtown employees commute by transit, that only 34% drive, and that 13% used non-motorized modes? Just in downtown, that represents 132,000 people who are merely a “social [services] issue”?!?

    Does he know that 87% of regular Metro riders have access to a car? (page 21)

    Does he know that nearly 50% of the people on the Alaskan Way Viaduct during rush hour are using transit?

    Does he know that 60% of Metro riders make more than $55k/year (page 24)?

    Does he know that Downtown has 200,000 jobs in just over 3 square miles? Transit is the only thing that keeps us from total gridlock.

    If you don’t support the efficient movement of people through your state’s largest city and county, you are actively working to hurt the regional economy, whether you intend to or not.

      1. I say we break off into two states, Eastern Washington and Western Washington. I’m tired of eastern Washington leeching off of us and at the same time complaining about paying for our subways.

      2. Wes, I’m getting to that point. It’d mean me as a moderate Republican would be part of a tiny minority on issues that keep me on the Right such as education reform, tax & spending limits, national defense, and the like.

        But this leeching and bullying of the Seattle metropolitan area & NW Washington State must cease.

      3. @Wes,

        We can’t “break into two states”. States — except the original 13 colonies and arguably Tejas y California — are creations of Congress. Any change in their borders, which would definitely include splitting a state, must be approved there.

        While Republicans would like the idea — they’d get two new Senators — Democrats would not, and it would set a bad precedent for other urban/rural divided states to split too. New York City would love to get rid of Albany and Upstate, although they’d probably want to keep the Catskills.

    1. Senator Tom, didn’t you see the obvious about this guy?

      I think you’re confused about Tom’s motives. He handed control over to Republicans because he wanted to screw over Seattle. Giving control of transportation to a bog-standard anti-transit Eastern Washington Republican advances his central goal. Tom wants to screw Seattle transit users over every bit as much as the anti-transit Republicans he’s unleashed on the state.

      1. He was a Democrat only briefly. He originally was elected as a Republican back in ’02, and just switched to the Democratic party in ’06 so he could win an election.

      2. And regardless of his party affiliation of the moment, he has long been on the public record bemoaning Seattle’s alleged dominance of state politics. He and Sheldon had the opportunity to accomplish one of their longstanding goals–screwing over Seattle–by giving power to the anti-Seattle, anti-transit party, and they jumped on it. They’ve been open about this goal.

        The behavior of the Tom-lead Senate is exhibit #234,543 that it makes no damn sense to be a Republican if you care about transit.

      3. I’d rather have Republicans inside the party tent pushing for transit than as independents with little to no influence over the party’s direction.

        We’ll see what happens, but I’m real wary of a party going further and further to the Right.

    2. Interesting that the numbers for DT Seattle work out to 43% of KC Metro’s 400,000 daily boardings. Me thinks DT employers are not paying 43% of Metro’s $640 million dollar budget. Back out fare revenue and it works out to $2,400 per employee ($6k/year for each person riding the bus). Since these DT employers are the major beneficiary of transit they should at least make up the $75 million shortfall with a $375 head tax. They’d still be getting a whale of a deal with sales tax making up the balance.

      1. DS doesn’t make up 43% of Metro’s ridership, it’s the other way around. 43% of DS commuters ride public transit.

      2. Including a sizable number on Sound Transit and Community Transit, who are included in that 43% but obviously not included in Metro’s boarding totals.

      3. Regardless, Metro does the heavy lifting. Many of those ST and CT riders transfer to Metro for the final leg of their journey. If you take all of the passenger miles for Metro and turned them into SOV trips VMT for King County would increase only 3%. It’s DT Seattle that is and always has been the hub of the wheel. DT businesses need to pony up. North King pays zero for ST Express service. Ditto for CT service. Microsoft pays 100% of it’s Connector bus system. It makes a lot more sense to charge $375 to those business directly benefiting from Metro than to some random owner of a $22,500 car; whose already shelling out $20 or more in tabs for transit.

    1. Many a senator was fired because of a single angry facebook post. NOT.

      But you are getting a good message across. Hopefully someone of influence will read that and start something going.

      And good job citing the 43% figure. 43 is a very important number for anyone in support of public transit.

      1. Thanks much because here’s the way I see it:

        I asked for you guys’ help to save my region and now you need mine.

        So you shall have it.

        We are all on the same team here. Skagitonian moderate with Seattle progressive with suburban swing voters.

  6. I always have to laugh when someone from ‘the other side’ complains about how much money Seattle spends. They never realize that Seattle spends far less than what it generates in tax revenue. I’d be happy to have Washington split into two seperate states–actually, lets see if Portland wants to join us! Then, the new state can also have the booming metropolis of…Pendleton.

    1. The State could span from Everett down to Eugene. The border to the east would be the Pacific Crest Trail, and the ocean to the west. We could call it Cascadia. And hey, maybe we could even add Vancouver, BC at some point.

    1. Well State Senator Bailey is an improvement – she won’t fund any more train stations in the middle or nowhere and stood up to State Senator King to save the Tri-County Connectors.

      MMH had to go for many reasons. Just ask and you’ll get a list in the morning.

  7. This is simply the way politics works. If you think about it rationally, what incentive does any representative from outside of King County have to vote for a package that provides more money for transit here? Even if we pay for all of it, while their constituents pay for none of it, their incentive to vote “yes” is still zero, not because their district has anything to lose, but because their district has nothing to gain. Unless, of course, the bill has sweeteners attached that give people in Yakima, Quinalt, and wherever else, something that their representative can take credit for.

  8. Washington State needs to follow the successful Texas model:

    .No income tax
    .Moderate sales tax
    .Property tax of 2%

    Right now because of the covenant on property tax rises, people are paying a hodgepodge of differing rates, which is very unfair. At the same time, property owners are not carrying the burden when these infrastructure improvements help increase the value of their properties.

    1. The Texas economy is driven largely by oil production, something that’s not replicated easily elsewhere. Plus, the vast majority of the jobs Texas has created in the last few years are shitty, low-paying jobs. Why don’t you just move to Texas.

      1. Both of these things are untrue.

        Texas is leading and one of the few states adding real middle class jobs.

        It does this by keeping salaries high, and housing costs low.

        Something Washington, because of its regulatory covenants like GMA and erroneously applied property taxes cannot do as well.

        The book “Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right” explains it in simple language for you to understand:

      2. Re: Texas housing costs
        It helps that most of their land is terrible for farming and ranching, the highest good is probably housing (or solar).

      3. Housing costs are higher here than in Texas, and that’s for a reason – Washington is a much better place to live! Texas has no mountains, not much in the way of water, and hundred-degree heat every summer, with stifling humidity. I grew up in Texas, and even though a 1,000 sq. ft. condominium here costs as much as a 2,000 sq. ft. single family home there, there is no way I can ever see myself moving back.

  9. Why is the only solution to raise the already high sales tax “just a little bit?” Why are only regressive taxes the only option?

    1. It’s not. A head tax or a LID on downtown, the primary reason transit exists in King County, should be the focus. Stop milking everybody except those who benefit the most and maybe public sentiment in the rest of the county will be as enthusiastic as where the vote is for something for nothing.

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