On Friday the Senate declined to take up the House transportation package, meaning no local option this year for King County Metro. In a procedural vote to bring the measure to the floor, King County Senators Joe Fain (R-47), Steve Litzow (R-41), Andy Hill (R-45), Pam Roach (R-31), and Rodney Tom (D-48) voted no. There will be another chance next session to provide either direct funding or a new funding source for Metro to stave off impending service cuts, but in the meantime, staff resources at the agency will be directed to prepare for them. This means staff aren’t available to plan for much else, so the City of Seattle is funding a full time planner to assist Metro.
It’s important to remember that this entire situation was created by the legislature, in decision after decision after decision. It was the legislature that limited the Congestion Reduction Charge (which passed the KC Council with a supermajority) to only two years. It was the legislature that only provided Highway 99 construction mitigation money for half the length of construction disruptions. Both temporary funding sources expire in 2014, resulting in the current crisis. However, these are only issues due to an earlier and much larger attack on Metro: SB 6865. It wasn’t Tim Eyman that took away Metro’s stable funding, it was the legislature:
At the November 1999 election the voters approved Initiative 695 which replaced the 2.2 percent state tax and the $2.00 clean air excise tax with a maximum annual license fee of $30 per vehicle. Although the Initiative was subsequently declared unconstitutional, the Legislature repealed these state taxes and established the $30 vehicle license fee by enacting SB 6865, Chapter 1, 1st Special Session, Laws of 2000, which was effective on January 1, 2000.
In 1999 the state provided 23% of transit funding in Washington, today it provides only 2%. For a state that claims to be a progessive leader we are at the bottom of the rankings in terms of state support for transit (national average is 22%). For a party that claims to dislike big government it is the height of hypocrisy to block local governments from enacting the will of their voters when it comes to local services.