On Monday from 6-9pm, the Washington State Senate’s listening tour has its Seattle stop. Note that the location has changed – it will now be at the First Presbyterian Church on 8th, on the west corner of First Hill.

Originally, this ‘listening tour‘ didn’t have a stop in Seattle at all – even though it’s jointly led by a Democrat and a Republican. That should be your first indicator that our legislature is heavily biased toward suburban and rural interests.

So what should we say? Most organizational advocacy lately has been for “transit in a state package.” I submit to you that asking for transit as part of a state package is a really bad idea.

First, the last package we saw contained no projects in Seattle. Nothing. All of our gas tax would be shipped out of the city for suburban and rural projects (probably part of why they didn’t want to include us in the tour). We have obvious needs – the 520 project is severely underfunded and has overrun by hundreds of millions already, SR-99 is already in the red, and our ferry terminal needs replacement, to say nothing of our local arterials, to which the state used to contribute.

Let’s say we get a state package that includes, say, a reborn Columbia River Crossing highway, expansion of US 395 in Spokane, and expansions of SRs 167 and 509 – and no money to fix state funding problems for their projects in Seattle. The last thing we want is to have the *authority to tax ourselves* tied to a package that exports our tax dollars to induce climate change and sprawl.

Remember “Roads and Transit”? A local measure that was more than half rail transit failed. The best case scenario the state House passed provides a couple hundred million for transit, and that had no prayer of passing the Senate. We don’t need to take that offer.

Here’s the real deal: The county has the ability to fix this funding problem, today. They could run a property tax measure, stabilizing Metro funding. It’s not as progressive as the value-based motor vehicle excise tax we’re asking for from the legislature, but it’s much more progressive than cutting service. As an emergency backup, the city of Seattle could do the same thing, as could many of our suburban cities.

In fact, Seattle and King County could go to ballot at the same time, proactively increasing transit funding if both passed. We could fund Metro to a level that let them institute a low income fare, and even much of the Seattle Transit Master Plan.

While we’re playing nice, we really have the state over a barrel. An alliance of anti-tax and pro-environment forces could stop a highway expansion package in its tracks, and we can solve our own transit funding issues if we really have to.

So on Monday, join us at First Presbyterian – and let’s tell the state it’s their last chance to fix this. They think they’re holding us hostage (much like the Republicans at the national level are doing), but this is their last chance to provide authority for Metro, likely with direct funding for operations, as nearly every other state provides – or we take away their leverage over Seattle voters to expand highways.

49 Replies to “Tell the State Senate It’s Their Last Chance”

  1. May have conflicting meeting- google Seattle Times and Lock Haven Apartments. Message to the legislature is long overdue. Would like your general take on something that’s been on my mind for a long time:

    Is the State of Washington still a good idea? Have always hesitated to throw away the amount of effort that goes into making a democratically created political entity. Also think history shows secession to be province of frogs unhappy with pond-size relative to theirs.

    Also wouldn’t mind giving aid and comfort to friendly constituents of my political enemies. Like the North giving covert help to pro-Union southerners during the last civil war. Also wonder if these last decades’ political shifts across the mountains can be reversed. The IWW used to be a force over there, let alone the Democrats.

    Meantime- good for you, Ben.

    Mark

  2. Sounds good to me. I have been feeling discontented with the messages I receive from some progressive organizations which strongly support the transportation plan (but modified to provide a little money for whatever they care about).

    I would add to the list of issues with the last transportation package: only 12% of the funds were designated for maintenance/operations/preservation (as reported by Sightline), and the gas tax is regressive on top of Washington’s already very regressive tax system.

    1. Jonathan — it is not fair to call the motor vehicle fuel tax “regressive”. It is a choice a vehicle owner makes to buy the product. Nobody is holding a gun to their heads and demanding they pay it. Don’t want to pay it? Take transit, ride a bike, etc. It is essentially a user-fee. The Repub.’s may gripe, but it’s a voluntary obligation.

      1. It’s not quite that simple. Housing in walkable areas with great transit is getting more expensive as it’s seen as more desirable. Many working-class jobs are located in places with limited transit connections, or require travel to various work sites on different days. In practice fuel taxes are as regressive as anything out there. That doesn’t mean they should never be used (I like the idea of pairing fuel/carbon taxes with per-head refunds), but it’s a fact.

  3. I wrote to Sen. Tom’s office* saying that is utterly inexcusable that road funding is always passed by the legislature but anything that doesn’t involve moving SOVs has to be put to a vote “to be fair.” The exact subject of my e-mail was “Senator, I am pissed off.” It’s getting more and more offensive to me that a) this state of affairs exists with road funding versus “everything else” and b) why does _every_ state seem to lack the political will to maintain vital infrastructure? We don’t need more new roads, at least not at the rate that “new-shinys” are being built; we need to keep the ones we have intact and functional and not literally falling down around us. He actually replied, though with some verbiage about working together and coalitions and such, to my comments, which came somewhat as a surprise considering the tone of my e-mail. That said, I still didn’t get much from him.

    I didn’t know that cities (including Seattle) and King County could float a property tax measure to fund transit. Is that what Bridging the Gap and Transit Now are? If so, why are we not pushing for that instead of just asking the legislature for permission to do something else? Is it a case of not wanting to play the last useful card until absolutely necessary? My (hypothetical, since I’m still looking) property tax here is half what it was back in my old state on an equivalently-valued house. It seems like there’s room there. If such a levy did pass, could it help Sound Transit, maybe by having KCM take back or indirectly fund some of the intra-King County routes like 542 and 522?

    1. It wouldn’t really make sense for Metro to take back any cross-lake routes. If anything, Sound Transit should be taking more of those routes, most notably the 255 and the 271. But anyway, I don’t think Sound Transit really has a funding crisis in the way that Metro does. And if it does, it’s probably not in the North King County subarea.

      I have no idea why we haven’t already tried to fund Metro via property tax, rather than sales tax. As you say, property taxes here are crazy low, and retail sales taxes (with the possible exception of taxes on non-portable goods and services) are a terrible way to fund anything. I can only assume it’s because the kind of people who don’t like paying property tax are more vocal (and vote more) than the kind of people who don’t like paying sales tax.

      1. In my mind, until Sound Transit has enough to build fully-grade-separated lines from Ballard-Downtown, Ballard-UW, Northgate-Kenmore, and West Seattle-Downtown, it’s short on North King funds.

        Of course, that’s probably in a whole different order of magnitude from whatever funds North King puts up for ST Express routes…

      2. I don’t think that the operations budget and the capital budget are fungible in the way that you describe.

        And anyway, I’m pretty sure that no ST Express routes are charged to North King, even ones that arguably should be (e.g. 50% of the 540/542/545/550). So in that sense, having ST pick up primary responsibility for CBD-Kirkland and UW-Bellevue-Issaquah would actually help North King out.

      3. My understanding was that north King is charged with half the cost of routes that run in both directions – that only routes whose schedules are set up to exclusively benefit the suburbs (e.g. 592, Sounder) are charged 100% to the suburbs.

      4. “I have no idea why we haven’t already tried to fund Metro via property tax”

        Because it requires a vote of the people with a 60% threshold, and there’s no way in hell that would pass countywide.

      5. asdf: You would think that, but if you look through ST’s financials, you can see that no revenue and no expenses are associated with North King for ST Express. It’s even been confirmed by an ST spokesperson, and reported on this blog.

        Matt: Couldn’t Seattle vote on a property tax levy, and then buy our own service? That would kill three birds with one stone. First, Seattle is no longer beholden to the rural parts of the county. Second, the county is less beholden to the state. And third, it’s documented that at the Metro level, Seattle (and Shoreline/Lake Forest Park) gets more in service than it generates in revenue, so a Seattle levy could make it possible to establish “Metro subarea equity” without unduly harming Seattle.

  4. I’ll be sure to itemize property taxes on my tenants rent when I raise it. Let them decide how progressive it is.

    1. I realize that you’re probably being sarcastic but what you propose is very, very common in commercial leasing. It’s called a “net” lease, and is one of single, double, or triple net where the lease payment to the landlord is composed solely of the payment for buying the landlord’s right of occupancy to the property plus whatever net payments aren’t the responsibility of the tenant. If this is something that you want to do, there is nothing stopping you. It’s almost the same as allocating the water bill by percentage, which is often done in multi-family residential leases.

      On the other hand, you could find that having increased access to public transit (thus reducing or eliminating the need for a car and its attendant expenses) makes your property more attractive. If a person is expending $800/month in vehicle expenses (2 vehicles at $300/mo each in payments plus $200/mo in insurance and essentials, and that’s on the low end), being able to drop one vehicle saves $400/month. Unless the property tax increase is $1 per $1,000 of value or something equally drastic (the county-wide parks levy is 18.67 cents per $1,000, for comparison), you could fetch $200/month of that savings as part of your rent above the property tax increase and the new tenant still comes out ahead, as do you.

  5. Two thoughts from your Skagitonian friend:

    1) I would prefer a statewide transit fund managed with the idea of competitiveness instead of this divisive idea of Skagit & King & a few other counties funding the rest of the state carte blanche. I mean why not base any state transit funding package on what’s the most passengers moved per dollar per year?

    2) I’m with you guys in spirit on stopping this war on the bus. Enough’s enough and I’m a Republican. It’s very true that Republicans support basic transit mobility w/ state tax subsidy in Eastern Washington and quite a bit of transit in Island County, so why are they waging war on Seattle? We are all one state and they are the ones forgetting that.

    Good luck. I asked for your help earlier this year and we stuck together – someway, somehow – and saved the Tri-County Connectors. Let’s find a way to stick together as a team if not a caucus.

    OFF HOT.

    1. Want to solve the problem? Stop voting R. This is why we are in this mess. We can go round and round, but the Rs simply hate transit. Period.

      1. Not all Rs hate transit.

        I vote D, here’s what I get:

        *Tax increases without voter approval
        *Higher tuition as that’s the D default position
        *Appeasing special interest groups with more unfocused spending
        *More opaque government

        The problem w/ Republicans is a lot of the old generation needs to be, er, moved aside. The new generation Republicans – millennials like I – are not cheerleaders for the car.

        It’s time to realize how our political system works – once both parties buy into something, it’s stable. It’s time to infiltrate the Republican Party and make transit – which saves money, helps get and keep disabled folks off the dole, and is better for the environment – vital. After all, it’s King County & Skagit County that keep this state afloat!

      2. Just told Representative Scott:

        . With great respect, just got your newsletter.

        If I could attend the Bellingham gas tax meeting, I would but there’s inadequate transit service for this Skagitonian to attend. I support funding mass transit and I also support government accountability – the latter of which why I can’t be a good Spendocrat (aka Democrat). I also have scorn for the WEA head office that buys and owns that party, but I digress.

        I hope you can come to please understand the importance of mass transit economically speaking. Although I work from home because my company (IRIS Flight Simulations Software) works online and my mother has health issues, I need mass transit to be a community member and frankly have a life. Mass transit is not something that’s “nice to have” if you can’t drive, it’s essential. A small gas tax increase tied to accountability is not going to be the end of the world compared to losing transit service for many folks. Many of us with disabilities cannot just pack up and move to Seattle or wherever, plus quite a few of us are literally abandoned by more well-off relatives.

        Food for thought, my fellow pro-lifer.

        Thanks Representative!

        I think you’ll like this.

      3. Tax increases without voter approval

        We live in a representative democracy. This means that we need to trust our representatives to act in our best interests. It’s ridiculous to suggest that we should have to ask the voters every time you want to raise revenue.

        Also, talk to someone who is a department head for a mid-sized organization under a tight budget constraint. There’s a big problem with budgeting in this situation. Let’s say that your department happens to have a good year, and you don’t need to spend as much money as normal. You still need to request a budget that’s the same as the old one. If you don’t, then your money will get permanently reassigned to a different department. Then, next year, when your expenses are higher again, you’ll never be able to get your money back.

        The same thing happens for government budgets. If you can’t raise revenue without asking the voters, then you will never ever ever lower revenue, even when it would make sense to do so, because you know that you’ll never get that money back.

        I know this might get deleted for being off-topic, but I actually think it’s vitally important. The anti-tax rhetoric of the Republican Party is more toxic for transit, and for all national infrastrucutre, than virtually anything else they’ve done. The reason that we don’t have better transit is that we don’t have enough money. The reason that we don’t have enough money is that raising revenue is ludicrously difficult. A vote for an anti-tax candidate is a vote against transit, period.

      4. Alexs;

        I hope your comment stays on, it’s definitely on-topic.

        I believe very strongly we need to cap government spending and go to voters who will cut through special interests who thrive in darkness and vote for transit plus gun background checks plus education reform. I also hope against hope we can start voting on closing tax loopholes for a more equitable tax code, especially considering the regressivity of our state’s tax system.

        It’s just a personal bias of mine from being a former county government intern that when there’s extra money to spend in government, it quickly gets spent instead of saved for a rainy day/recession.

        That said, guys like I need to reform the Republican Party from within. There will be setbacks and frustrations, but eventually my fellow Republicans will see the merits of supporting some mass transit.

      5. I believe very strongly we need to cap government spending and go to voters who will cut through special interests who thrive in darkness and vote for transit plus gun background checks plus education reform. I also hope against hope we can start voting on closing tax loopholes for a more equitable tax code, especially considering the regressivity of our state’s tax system.

        I think you’re making a lot of assumptions here. You’re assuming that the kinds of government programs that people want to fund are in line with the kinds of taxes that people are willing to pay. You’re also assuming that voters would be universally in favor of closing “loopholes”, even though virtually every taxpayer in the country benefits from at least one of these tax expenditures.

        Personally, I would be strongly in favor of taxing the imputed income from homeownership (like Iceland and the Netherlands), or barring that, repealing the mortgage interest deduction (like every other OECD country). But do you really think a nation of homeowners would vote to tax themselves in this way?

        If you want to simplify the tax code, you need a “grand bargain”, where everyone gives up their own personal benefit at once. That’s just not going to happen if you have to put everything to a public vote. Instead, you’re going to get a lot of unfunded mandates, and a tax code which heavily subsidizes the lifestyle of those groups of people who tend to have high voter turnout.

        It’s just a personal bias of mine from being a former county government intern that when there’s extra money to spend in government, it quickly gets spent instead of saved for a rainy day/recession.

        Of course it gets spent. That’s exactly my argument! If they don’t spend it, it will get taken away from them! They would be foolish *not* to spend it. It’s better to waste 1% of your money this year, then to give up 1% of your money for the next 100 years.

        That said, guys like I need to reform the Republican Party from within. There will be setbacks and frustrations, but eventually my fellow Republicans will see the merits of supporting some mass transit.

        Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to have you on the side of better transit, and I hope that folks like you can help to swing the pendulum. But realistically, Tim Eyman’s anti-tax measures have done more to hurt transit in Washington State than any amount of rhetoric from the “war on cars” folks. The #1 problem is that we don’t have enough money, and so are the #2 and #3 problems.

      6. Hey Alexs,

        Thanks for the kind words. I’m no fan of most of Eyman’s malicious damage against transit – certainly I-695 was the beginning of the dismantling of our state’s mass transit safety net and some of the other Eyman initiatives have worked towards that end goal.

        I just hope out of this Great Recession and the ongoing government shutdown, “We the People” have the political courage so many in Owe-mypia and DC lack.

        Keep on transiting on.

      7. Avgeek, you can’t have it both ways. On the one hand, you decry “tax increases without voter approval,” but then you bash on initiatives submitted directly to the voters. Your party–the party you have chosen to openly and honestly support–has dedicated itself to “drowning government in a bathtub.” Anything that would provide for the common good is excluded from that proposed government. Transit is gone and even roads cease to be a public resource (see also: Texas and its ever exploding growth of toll roads because TxDOT is so chronically underfunded that some state highways are being returned to gravel[1]). Cities and counties are prohibited from raising the revenue for services their residents use and the state level refuses to raise revenue–yes, I mean increase taxes–to compensate.

        As Alexs wrote, we live in a representative democracy, so our representatives are expected to work to the benefit of society as a whole. That means making tough decisions and not fobbing them off on the voters, while being willing to go in front of a camera and say the words that need to be said: “Society is expensive, and society has to pay the freight.” If one part of a state–let’s say, Eastern Washington counties paying for Western Washington transit–doesn’t want to pay, let the others do it themselves.

        I’m genuinely sorry if I sound like I’m attacking you, personally. I’m trying not to do so but you’ve identified yourself as a millennial, or someone who is my age, so it confounds me how you can look at today’s Republican party and conclude them of being worthy of support, even going so far as to use “Owe-mypia.” It is more honest and up front to be accused of being “tax and spend;” at least we’re paying for it ourselves.

        1 – http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2013/aug/08/Lege_GravelRoads/

      8. lakecityrider ;

        I admit having it a bit both ways. I also appreciate your civility.

        However, as much as I am appalled at Eymanism, I “get it” the voters want voter approval on taxes in this state. So to me, let’s just give voters the say and educate them on what’ll happen if they vote no. If they vote no, kill the services. If they vote yes, do the promised services right and better.

        I also view Owe-lympia as such because of other issues, not just transit. Like the mostly Democrat rush to opaque local government in the State House last legislative session. Furthermore, we have a current generation of politicians mostly of the me-me-me-me-me generation over there that is going to hand us millennials a disaster that frankly I don’t trust. Democrats lack the guts to go to voters on tax reform and force Republicans to defend the indefensible, Republicans lack the guts to explain the importance of mass transit to their own base. Also both parties lack the guts to put teeth into the State Auditor’s Office, the Public Records Act or the Open Public Meetings Act. So yeah, “I do not trust Olympia and ergo I do not trust Tim Eyeman to fix it.”

      9. Since the meme seems to be spreading, I should point out that my name is Aleks with a K, not Alexs with an X. :)

        However, as much as I am appalled at Eymanism, I “get it” the voters want voter approval on taxes in this state. So to me, let’s just give voters the say and educate them on what’ll happen if they vote no. If they vote no, kill the services. If they vote yes, do the promised services right and better.

        The fact that a lot of people want something — or think they want something — doesn’t automatically make it a good idea. Voters want veto power over taxes. They also want a pile of public services, without having to pay for them. We need to trust that our representatives can come to a reasonable agreement about what government should do and how to pay for it, and then vote them out if they’re not doing a good job.

        I also view Owe-lympia as such because of other issues, not just transit.

        Name-calling never really makes the name-caller look good.

        Democrats lack the guts to go to voters on tax reform

        Tax reform just isn’t the kind of thing that you can bring to the voters. Imagine if you had a national referendum on abolishing every income tax deduction. Everyone who has a home would vote no, since they’d be losing their tax credits. Everyone who has major medical expenses would vote no. Everyone who has student loans would vote no. Who’s left to vote yes?

      10. But though the voters are entitled to voter approval on taxes in this state only so far as the power of Initiative and Referendum gives to them, like how the legislature is limited in its scope and authority. It is cowardly and foolish of our state Senate (and the legislature in general) to insist on any direct referendums on taxes passed by said legislature, much less picking and choosing the “less popular” ones like transit, or library levies, or even same-sex marriage. Transit is a method of moving people from one place to another; that is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a government, to empower the free and open movement of its citizens and residents. Fobbing off tax authority for this onto the voters is a method of shirking responsibility for governing. Never mind that direct democracy is and has long been seen as the tyranny of the loudest faction, of the people who will say “only the poor use transit and they’re just greedy and feasting off the fruits of my labor so screw them.” There is no value and no equity in having to continually shout down those voices statewide, especially not when local government is pulling in the opposite direction.

        “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” – Agent Kay, Men in Black (1997)

        “[A] pure Democracy, by which I mean a Society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the Government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. … Hence it is, that such Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” – James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10

      11. Gents;

        I just find it odd that you guys in a few months will be exercising your direct democratic rights or support the fobbing off by legislative bodies to voters of tax increase votes yet… criticize me for making that the rule. Just odd, that’s all. I think ideally we’d also have term limits so incumbency’s merits & demerits are shrunk but that’s me.

        I do think voters are smarter than you guys give them credit for. I also think they are very capable of repeating I-695 which may have saved them up front on taxes but ended up getting clawed back in other ways (higher local taxes, higher user fees, less mass transit availability). The problem is now that we have four legs of Washington State Government, we actually have to go out and educate voters about using that fourth leg of direct democracy.

        Finally, I want to make this very, very clear: I will do more than just give you moral support my King County transit allies if/when the State Senate fails us on transit. You know and I know the ax I have to grind with my party on transit plus my dependency on transit as much as I support my party on other issues!

      12. I just find it odd that you guys in a few months will be exercising your direct democratic rights or support the fobbing off by legislative bodies to voters of tax increase votes yet… criticize me for making that the rule. Just odd, that’s all.

        I’m sorry, I must be missing your point. It sounds like you’re saying that, because I’m going to vote in favor of a tax increase, I’m implicitly endorsing the terrible state rules that force tax increases to be passed to the voters. But that doesn’t make any sense, so could you clarify?

  6. I’m going to have to say a value tax for cars is not progressive. A progressive tax is where everybody pays according to their ability, a tax that is shared by all and not targeted to a certain class of people, in this case, drivers of cars because public transit benefits everybody, even drivers, just like good roads benefit everybody, even people who don’t drive, so we’ve got to move away from targeted taxes such as property taxes. The only way I can see we can do that is with an income tax that taxes ALL incomes (broadly defined and loopholes closed) with exceptions for low-income earners. That’s more fair than requiring car owners or property owners or whomever to pay for certain services. It should not fall on the backs of any particular segment of society but should be shared and borne by all. Washington taxes are awful and they’re insufficient to boot.

    1. A motor vehicle excise tax is pretty much exactly according to ability. Those who don’t own cars usually can’t afford them. The people who can afford cars and don’t have them are doing exactly the behavior we want to promote, so it makes sense for them to pay less for Metro than others. Remember, they’ll still be paying 80-90% as much as those with cars, because most of Metro is paid for with sales tax. It’s just a small discount.

    2. “Progressive”, in taxation, has a pretty specific meaning, which is that people at higher income levels pay a higher share of their income than people at lower income levels. I’m not sure whether vehicle excise taxes come out progressive or not, but they’re much, much more so than sales taxes and gas taxes.

      Every sort of tax you can think of has some people that pay more than others.

      – Sales taxes are pretty indiscriminate, because most people have to buy things to survive. Rich people spend more on an absolute basis than poor people but less as a share of income, so sales taxes really hit the poor hardest in terms of ability to pay (whether that’s poor by income or property) and are usually considered regressive. Pigouvian taxes and user fees (carbon taxes, fuel taxes, “sin” taxes, sugary food taxes, road tolls) usually end up much the same unless they’re targeted really carefully (sales tax targeting often includes a lower rate for groceries, which tends to make the tax less regressive). Pigouvian taxes, of course, are designed around their other benefits, and some types of user fees provide market-like signals of costs of providing public goods.

      – Property taxes (including vehicle value taxes and things like estate taxes) hit people hardest directly that own property (though like, say, carbon taxes, they’re passed on to others as well), and tend to be (in a general analysis) as progressive as anything out there in terms of ability to pay — if you’re taxing based on ownership of an asset, you’re definitely taxing someone with an asset! In some cases retirees living in booming neighborhoods face hardships from property taxes, but it gets more press than it’s worth (while the people suffering from sales tax get little press). It’s very notable that an assessment of value is necessary to tax property, and that process can be controversial… also property tax breaks for development are pretty common and can be really significant. That is: small-scale property owners have the political power to hold down property taxes on everyone, while big-time property developers often gain the power to hold down specifically their own property taxes.

      – Income taxes are exactly as progressive as the tax tables you write… and the method of counting the income. They’re therefore felt most by middle-aged, middle-income, people at the peak of their productive careers… these people almost by definition have conventional, easy to count income streams, because if they didn’t the government would fix that right away. Low-income people feel less because the tax system is usually designed to give them a break, and high-income people don’t feel. Income taxes miss people with unconventional income or sneaky accountants (or who can hire lobbyists to portray them as job creators). They also tend to be fairly easy on older people (even if they’re paying income tax on money drawn from retirement accounts), whose accumulated wealth is a bigger factor in their lifestyle than any nominal income.

      There’s a place for all these sorts of taxes in some measure. Income taxes really aren’t the only worthwhile ones, though maybe they’re too low in the mix for Washingtonians.

      1. I didn’t explain the meaning well in the first paragraph… “progressive” has to do with the progression of tax rates as some scale increases (as opposed to its regression in a regressive tax), usually one related to income or wealth. Because income and wealth vary in different ways, and both impact a person’s ability to pay taxes, income in a sustained way and wealth over a fixed period, there can be some ambiguity over the term’s use sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you can substitute any definition of fairness you think of off the top of your head.

        There was a big economics piece, I think in the NYT a few months ago, arguing for a wealth tax, basically like a comprehensive property tax. I don’t have a great background for evaluating the details of this, but I’d guess old people are too politically powerful compared to young people to allow that to happen. I sort of wish young people had more political voice and old people more cultural voice, but that’s another topic altogether.

      2. The biggest problem with instituting a financial wealth tax is the portability of wealth. In a world with a single government and no paper money, you could imagine having a wealth tax that was automatically taken out of every bank account on a weekly basis. In the real world, people would move their money into other assets that can’t be so easily taxed, or into jurisdictions that refuse to play along with the US’s imposition of a wealth tax.

        Conversely, property taxes — and especially land taxes — are the polar opposite. It’s simply not possible to evade a land tax. Either you own land in a jurisdiction, and you pay its taxes, or you don’t.

        It’s always mystified me that the WA sales tax chooses to heavily tax the sale of portable items like cars and appliances, but to exempt hairdressers and nail salons. Many people will drive to Oregon to avoid paying tax on a big purchase, but no one’s going to do that for a haircut or a manicure. A tax on “tourist” goods and services is in some sense the perfect sales tax. If someone is coming to visit Seattle because they want to see the Space Needle and enjoy the restaurants, they’re not going to drive to Oregon to avoid paying tax on those goods!

    3. Should we get rid of fares, then? They target the poor for sure, and very few of the rich pay them.

      Maybe the answer involves a mix of funding sources, not just an ideological bent on finding the perfect source, and putting all our eggs in that basket.

  7. If I were in town I’d be there, but I’m sending this post to everyone I know who might be interested.

    Remember, Seattle voters: this grotesque nightmare of a State Senate is the product of Ed Murray’s leadership and “bringing people together” skills.

      1. well, obviously it’s the fault of Republicans (and, ahem, the people who vote them into office) and the odious Tom. But surely it’s not unreasonable to evaluate leg. Leaders in part by their ability to hold their caucus together sufficiently to accomplish the basic functions of a legislature.

    1. I seem to recall this blog encouraging people to vote against a Dem. senator in the last election with the mistaken belief it would lead to a better Senate Transportation chair. A Republican won the seat and control of the Senate switched with the help of the two non-Democrats.

      STB does a lot of great things but they outsmarted themselves with their endorsements last time out.

  8. So here is the question / side effect of applying a property tax county wide for transit.
    Does that obligate King County Metro to provide transit service throughout the entire county?
    If so how will they do the Upper Skykomish valey area (Bearing / Skykomish)?
    Probably the cheapest would be to pay CT to continue up US2 from Gold Bar, where the CT service currently terminates ;)

    1. It would be great if Metro could somehow limit its service area to the ST service boundary (obviously excluding the portions outside King County). This would mean that North Bend and Black Diamond would give up their services, though maybe they could buy them back explicitly, like how ST has that one route that serves the area of Pierce County outside of Pierce Transit’s contracted district.

      I don’t know how this would work, but it seems like it should be possible. The county already provides services that are limited in scope, like the library system (excludes Seattle) and rural fire stations (excludes most incorporated places).

      But to directly answer your question, the sales tax is already county-wide, but that doesn’t obligate us to send buses to the whole county. So I don’t think a property tax would be much different, possibly except for the politics of passing it.

  9. Learn from our west coast neighbors, California. We need a Washington TDA program. It could pass because it allows rural counties to spend the money on roads after outreach and findings of an unmet transit needs study.
    http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/MassTrans/State-TDA.html

    Of course, CA has an income tax for these sorts of funds, which is in theory progressive.

    1. I agree, but to do that, we need to win back our Senate, which means we couldn’t create one until well after Metro funding falls off a cliff.

      1. A good way to win back the Senate would be to refrain from endorsing Republicans in the general election. Don’t you think?

        From STB’s election endorsements in 2012:

        “We see absolutely no reason to think that Barbara Bailey, the GOP candidate, will be a good force for transit, or even vote for the most basic legislation on behalf of causes we support. But she will not be chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, unlike incumbent opponent Mary Margaret Haugen. By most accounts, Ms. Haugen has been the primary obstacle to pro-transit legislation in the last several legislative sessions. In effect, a vote for Bailey is a vote for current Vice Chair Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way, who represents constituents that depend on Metro and Sound Transit, and had the fortitude to resist the populist, counterproductive anti-Sound Transit bill forwarded by her House counterparts. While not in the inner circle of excellent transfer advocates, we expect her to be a vast improvement over Haugen.”

        https://seattletransitblog.com/2012/10/19/stb-2012-general-election-endorsements/

      2. Mary Margaret Haugen used her power as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee to block nearly all transit funding and local transit funding options. I’m still very happy she is no longer in that position. Rodney Tom is being a dolt for not seeing that the transit advocacy community is not owned by the Democratic Party.

        OTOH, if the Senate Democrats elected a leader from somewhere other than Seattle, Sen. Tom might not have taken his marbles with him. We deserve much better leadership than what Rodney Tom and Ed Murray have offered. I guess that’s another silver lining if Murray gets elected mayor.

      3. Scottie, you’re absolutely right. STB missed the forest for the trees when it endorsed Bailey. I well remember seeing that last year and thinking, There goes STB’s credibility. Makes about as much sense as a Naderite type of activist saying “I hope Romney wins so things get worse – then it will become more evident that we need progressive change.” That’s an activist incapable of thinking broadly and competently.

        Had Haugen been reelected, the Senate would have stayed in Democratic hands, and the 2013 session would have turned out *very* differently. We might have even gotten a local options bill passed. We don’t know what would have happened but we do know the Republicans would not have been able to take over with a Haugen victory.

        I’ve never been a big Haugen fan but I was really hoping she’d be reelected. She wasn’t the devil incarnate as some here seem to think. She was for ferry funding, and she largely quit picking on Sound Transit after St2 passed. We would have been better off had she won.

        And Brent, I think you’re wrong to suggest that if Senate Democrats had picked a non-Seattle leader, Tom would have stayed in the Democratic tent. Remember, Tom, Kastama, and Sheldon crossed over to join the Republicans in 2012 with their ninth order business. As soon as Tom saw that there was an opportunity to seize power, he moved forward with his plans. He’s admitted his plans were made pretty early. The coup made him majority leader. Do you really believe Tom would have acted differently if someone else was leader? I don’t. Tom is power hungry.

        As for your comment, “We deserve much better leadership than what Rodney Tom and Ed Murray have offered. I guess that’s another silver lining if Murray gets elected mayor.”

        Wrong again. If Murray is elected mayor we will be seeing a lot of him and his leadership (or lack thereof). He will almost certainly have a seat on the Sound Transit Board and he will have a nice bully pulpit to talk about state and local transportation projects and plans. Murray will only be a bigger player in transportation matters if he becomes mayor.

  10. The county tax that has been discussed in private would be a car tab fee authorized by a transportation benefit district. This is far more regressive than the MVET authority that would be part of a statewide package, but it might be our only good choice. We need to just say “No” to being held hostage and vote down a bad package.

  11. I’m a bit irked by the statement that the belief is all gas tax dollars would be shipped out of Seattle with any FUTURE Transportation Package from the State. In the spirit of urbanism, every place outside of Seattle ISN’T the suburbs and other cities have just as ailing transportation needs as Seattle does. Additionally, I don’t think it is a knee-jerk reaction to be paranoid of Seattle having its gas tax revenues exported in totality. There are several conversations happening at this listening tour and looking at Seattle in a vacuum is unwise.

    I find it a bit hypocritical to see support for HWY-99 and SR 520 bridge improvements praised then the end of this article focus on defeating a HWY funding package in the name of environmentalism, pro-transit, and even the ultimate deal with the devil, allying with anti-tax advocates. You’re using leeches to solve the Statewide transportation-flu Ben and you’re not even following your own advice.

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