Although some details leaked out yesterday, the official rollout of the latest plan to save Metro was at 9am this morning. In the City of Seattle, there would be a $60 vehicle license fee (VLF) and 0.1% sales tax increase, yielding $45m annually and entirely dedicated to transit. The cuts scheduled for 2014 will go through, but Murray expects $40m of this revenue to avoid “the vast majority” of the 2015 cuts — 90% of the current boardings in Seattle — to routes “mostly in” Seattle. This amounts to about 8% of the current, countywide system. The city may find $500,000 to restore the night owl trips in the 2014 tranche of cuts.

The intent is that the Council would put the money in large buckets and Metro would make specific route decisions, with protections in the intergovernmental agreement so that the post-cut network is the baseline for Metro’s service allocation decisions. Executive Constantine laid out the standardized framework for these agreements, called “Community Mobility Contracts,” yesterday. Mr. Constantine stated unequivocally today that “the money stays where the city specifies.”

$3m will go into a “regional partnership fund” for employers or other cities that want to match Seattle’s money to buy service on inter-city routes like the the 158 or 215. Even one-way peak expresses are eligible. The Mayor’s office says these are good for Seattle employers and they keep cars off Seattle’s streets. Seattle residents righteously indignant at this “subsidy” for suburban residents might consider that 100% of Sound Transit Express service is funded by suburban subareas.

The remaining $2m will fund a VLF rebate for low-income residents.

Murray said that “when a regionwide solution is in place, we would phase this out,” although in the future Seattle might ask voters if they would like to use this money to improve service in “desperate” areas like West Seattle and Ballard. Murray said that in his opinion “we do not have real bus rapid transit in this state,” and had Prop 1 passed he would have focused on remedying that immediately. Aggressive capital plans will now have to wait for the legislature to free up the VLF funds, as “for the moment we’re managing our way through the crisis.” If the legislature were never to the act, by law the sales tax portion can be in effect for no more than 10 years.

This plan still has to pass the Seattle City Council before going to voters. Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen, in response to a question, suggested he preferred VLF to property tax because Seattle voters have already approved it. However, he said Bridging the Gap was a mechanism for property tax to fund transportation, one that would likely continue. Mayor Murray showed no enthusiasm for having two property tax measures (Pre-K and transit), on the ballot simultaneously, closely following a Parks property levy.

In an interesting addendum, Shoreline Deputy Mayor Chris Eggen showed up to say his city was “strongly considering” participating in the regional partnership fund and/or Community Mobility Contracts, but could not commit to anything today.

98 Replies to “Mayor Murray Unveils Plan D”

  1. I get where he is coming from but I’d still rather have a property tax and I’m almost certain that Seattle voters would approve all 3. That said, I like the cooperation aspect and that it is transit-only, so I’ll vote for it.

    ($500k to save the Owls? Seriously, just dig into the rounding error section of the budget and preempt those cuts.)

  2. Hmmm, I’d rather have the property tax (progressive) than a flat vehicle license fee (which even some of my liberal friends hate for some reason) and a sales tax (mostly regressive). I get that the mayor is worried about his Pre-K plan, and it is certainly an important thing that I support, but I don’t understand why we can’t do both. I say this as a property owner.

    1. That’s four votes for a property tax, and none against (I count lakecityrider in the pro vote). Really, does anyone think the other tax is better, either politically or otherwise?

    2. A property tax would make the transit item more equitable and reliable and permanent, but the “equitable” part is just an academic nicety. What affects taxpayers is the total amount they pay, not which portions go to which programs. if transit used the property tax and displaced preschool or parks to the sales tax, the cost to taxpayers would be the same. The different is that transit would be more immune to boom-and-bust cycles, while preschool or parks would be subject to them. I happen to think that’s the right priority for transit vs parks, but the mayor thinks differently.

      (I’m also hesitant about this parks benefit district at all. My instinct is to continue the several-year levies we’ve been doing.)

      1. The other nice feature about a property tax is that it is a deductible from your federal taxes. A VLF (whether flat or graduated) is not deductible. I realize that sales tax is deductible (but always on the chopping block for deductibility), but the bulk of the funds raised here are on the VLF.

      2. A VLF (whether flat or graduated) is not deductible.

        Well, if it’s graduated by market value, it becomes an MVET and then it is deductible. And virtually no-one gets to deduct the entire value of sales tax they pay for the year.

      3. If it was a matter of priorities, then I would place it as preschool, transit, parks. Basically, if it was a matter of priorities, then I think the mayor has a point. But as you said, either way we get taxed the same, and I’ve yet to hear anyone say they prefer the other tax over a property tax. So, basically, the mayor is afraid that the voters will either:

        A) Be more likely to swallow a different tax, rather than another property tax. I think this is ridiculous, frankly.
        B) The voters will be more likely to support preschool and parks, because those taxes are property taxes. In that respect, he is basically saying that if something has to go, then it should be transit, and we will isolate it by addressing it via a ridiculously unpopular tax.
        C) Some other convoluted voter logic.
        D) He got pushback by wealthy Seattle business interests. This might be a little slimy, but I would have more respect for him if this is the case. In other words, if Paul Allen, or Jeff Bezos told him that he better do something about the high property taxes or they would take his business elsewhere, then I commend him on the sneaky, underhanded, but ultimately beneficial backroom dealing.

        More than likely, though, it is A, B, or C, in which case he is just oblivious and out of touch with Seattle voters and has no concern the fairness of taxes.

      4. I also like the property tax idea because the Downtown building owners would also pay into the fund. Since many trips are from home-to-work and back, residents shouldn’t be paying for almost 100 percent of the new trip subsidy.

      5. I thought there was some law somewhere that said that any increases in sales tax or VLF had to go towards transportation, whereas property tax revenue could go toward anything.

      6. @asdf: Yes, that’s correct. Technically, the $60 VLF and 0.1% sales tax would not be levied by the City of Seattle, but by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. All taxes collected by the Seattle TBD must be expended for transportation purposes. The property tax would have been levied by the City of Seattle, which can use its taxing authority for just about anything.

    3. I agree with the property tax over the sales tax and vehicle fee. But I also wish our politicians would remember we live in a representative republic and just vote it in. Especially given the results of the last election.

    4. The repeated line that because Seattleites voted for $60 car tabs and a sales tax increase, they will do so again, misses a couple points. One is that the county proposition set aside 40% for general transportation purposes, determined by each city council. There is no road/bike/sidewalk/bridge money in this proposition. I don’t think there needs to be, but I think it is a bad assumption that shifting the purpose won’t alter who will vote for the city-only proposition.

      The more annoying smudge-over is that detail that we were selling the car tab and sales tax as the only option the state was allowing us. In the case of this proposition, we are openly admitting that property tax is an option, but we don’t want to compete with parks or pre-K. To say that city voters will vote for a regressive package because they have already voted for the same regressive package is insulting to many who voted Yes (me included), obnoxiously callous, and certainly not going to win votes.

      Moreover, there was that the low-income fare program that more than counter-balanced the regressiveness of the county funding proposals. There is no counterbalance in the city proposition, except for $2 million for tab rebates (which I think is a massive underestimation of the actual cost of the rebate program).

      If the various projects Mayor Murray wants to see funded through property tax run up against the lid, then he should say so. Short of that, there is no good argument in favor of the council voluntarily choosing sales tax and flat tabs over property tax. There is just poor logic with which a handful of insiders are playing word games on themselves.

      I can’t with a straight face or in good conscience go out and campaign for a sales tax and flat car tab just because some elected officials think it is more popular than property tax. At least do a poll before inflicting this pain on us.

    5. Obviously, the direct impact to me isn’t that much except when I visit you people up north.

      But, if it were me, I would vastly prefer a property tax. The thing is, from the looks of things in going through the Seattle budget, it looks like a fair amount of property tax money is already going to the Seattle DOT to pay for roads.

      In my opinion, cities in general should vastly reduce the amount of money going to roads from property taxes. The majority of costs of roads have to do with the amount they are used, and that money should be coming from gasoline taxes and other auto related fees.

      Thus, my opinion on this thing is that the $60 registration fee should be a roads fee. It would be put in place in order to make up for property tax funds directed to roads that would instead be directed to transit.

      The advantage? This helps put the emphasis on the lack of a state level transportation package. This also means that car tab increase or not, the property taxes would go to fund transit.

  3. Is there any evidence to show that the property tax option would necessarily conflict with the Pre-K plan? Would voters reject a future Pre-K plan on the basis that property taxes have already risen due to the passing of a previous measure? I’m inclined to feel that the way Ed Murray is framing this is disingenuous and has a political angle.

    1. Oops, they’re on the ballot simultaneously. I missed that small detail. I wish I could edit.

  4. Would like to hear from Ben Schiendelman about how the initiative campaign he spearheaded will best be brought into the campaign for the mayor’s plan. Thanks, Ben.

    Mark Dublin

    1. My guess is that Ben, or at the very least, many of the supporters, are torn right now. They can get behind the mayor, but that would mean going ahead with a taxing mechanism that is less progressive. I think Rasmussen, as well as the mayor, are completely wrong on this. I believe that the city would overwhelmingly prefer a property tax over a combination of sales and (flat) car tab tax.

      Frankly, I am curious as to whether the rest of the city council buys into the the idea that a sales and car tab tax is better than a property tax. I think that is nonsense, from a political as well as fairness standpoint. I could easily see a lot of resistance from the rest of the council on this point.

      1. Not to speak for Ben — but they are suspending the campaign after talking with the Murray people. My guess is that this has his full support.

      2. The argument the mayor is making, whether wittingly or not, is that transit is important but it’s less important than preschool or parks. There’s precedent for this because transit has never graduated into the property tax yet. It may be one of cases where we try repeatedly for several years, and finally it gets in someday.

        The initiative activists are absolutely right that the city and county were not moving until the initiative turned on the heat. The same way with Seattle Subway and Ballard Link, and similar to Sawant’s $15 wage campaign.

        The county’s program is very good, and it succeeds in being “regional” while giving Seattle the flexibility it needs. It gives the other cities a structure to opt into the same opportunity rather than having to start from scratch.

        The mayor’s plan is better than the initiative in one aspect: it allows some restructures to go through at Metro’s discretion, rather than tying the added hours to legacy routes. I’m not happy about the sales tax/MVET, but the most urgent thing is to stablize the service hours, and we can improve the tax mechanism later.

        If the transit paradigm is fundamentally shifting to Metro providing minimal service and the cities topping it up to their notion of acceptable service, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s backing into recreating “Seattle Transit” without the separate agency. Why shouldn’t Seattle have some autonomy on its routes, Bellevue on its routes, Kent on its routes, etc? As long as the intercity routes aren’t neglected. That would become Metro’s responsibility to safeguard, and the city pairs to cooperate on. In the long term I want a robust county baseline and direct state support, but this is a reasonable step in the meantime.

        I also want all the cities’ transit master plans realized, which is the next major step and will require more funding. The current crop of TMPs are good: they focus on frequent transit in designated corridors, and urban village opportunities. Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Lynnwood, and Marysville all have plans like that, and those are just the ones I know about.

      3. I am guessing that there is something here we are not seeing…

        Maybe the mayor has been planning some pre-emptive transit capitol spending for the Ballard-West Seattle line with the property tax space left after pre-K and parks (maybe in 2015 or 2016 when they are not on the same ballot)?

        I know that in the past he has made some comments about building rapid bus infrastructure that could be converted to light rail for west seattle: http://westseattleblog.com/2014/04/video-westside-awards-presented-at-west-seattle-chamber-of-commerce/

        Since we have heard nothing detailed since then though, its hard to know if this will materialize into something or if it was a one-off comment. I just hope that in the political rhetoric we have been seeing in reference to West Seattle’s needs does not leave Ballard ignored until ST3 comes around.

      4. Clearly I did not read enough of the article before commenting. The mayor did talk about capitol projects going forward after funding is restored…

      5. Thanks, Ross. Know Ben is busy. Comment on personal skin in the game:

        Since I don’t vote in either Seattle or King County, and own no residential property anywhere, but do own a car I want to leave to the Smithsonian in my will and reside someplace I consider part of the Greater Puget Sound Region:

        My choice is restoring the State Motor Vehicle Excise Tax to a level that will make up for the 20 years of damage caused by Tim Eyman’s first initiative, the legislature’s passing its whole content, and Governor Locke’s signature.

        Choice here is up to Seattle residents. Still stand by my cost analysis: for people in my bracket, meaning have to keep one car for a hopefully long life, my most effective automotive cost control is best possible public transit. So for city and suburban motorists anywhere, MVET is very progressive.

        Mark Dublin

      6. @Mike, yes, I agree. The mayor is basically saying that transit is a lesser priority than both preschool and parks. I can get the reasoning behind preschool, but I think the parks thing is ridiculous. I love parks. I will vote for every levy that includes parks. But if the parks aren’t quite that nice, if they aren’t quite as pretty, or the lawn isn’t mowed that often, I can live with it. But if transit is bad, then some poor guy or gal is out of a job. It’s that simple. If you can’t get to work, your boss fires you. You can always buy a car — except you can’t, because you just lost your job! Well, I guess you can always go live under a tree somewhere, in a nice park.

        But I also hate the idea of how he deals with his priorities. Delay the vote, if you think it is worth delaying, but don’t saddle it with a tax that almost everyone hates. The tax(es) are regressive, unfair and unpopular. They are unpopular, of course, because we have a well educated, progressive voting population that realizes these taxes are regressive an unfair.

      7. @Mike — Just so we are clear, this isn’t a pre-Eyman style MVET tax. This is a straight up, per car tax. The same guy who owns three junkers and parks them in his yard (and drives the one that works) pays the same amount as the guy who drives a brand new Lamborghini. Oh wait, he pays three times as much. That isn’t progressive. Not by a long shot.

  5. This is great news. Seattle is stepping up to have a say in its transit future, and saving the night owls is an excellent first step.

    1. As long as they are routes that operate during the day and not some variant like the 82, 83 or 84.

      1. As I wrote earlier, I think the right decision is to kill the 83 in favor of owl service on the 73 (including the new 73 to Northgate, once it starts up), and to kill the 82 and 84 in favor of owl service on the 11 and a custom through-route of the 3S and 13.

        But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. The owls are vital lifelines, and we’re much better off with bad ones than with nothing. Metro has already started rationalizing the owl network (by killing the 81 and 85 in favor of owl runs on the C and D), and there’s every reason to assume that they’ll eventually continue the process.

  6. I have a few concerns about the Mayor’s proposal.

    Most importantly, I think Metro has done a great job in coming up with a plan for cuts that includes a number of changes that would actually make the system better in the long run. Some of these changes would be very, very difficult for Metro to push through under any other circumstances, but really get at the heart of “inefficiency” in the system. It would be a shame if we go to the trouble of implementing a couple of flat taxes just to maintain the status quo service, which is nowhere near as good as it could be. I would like to see some assurance that this money WON’T just fund the service we have today, but that will fund an improved system using the same amount of revenue (or however much we have available). We all know this is possible, and I don’t see any better time to do it.

    Secondly, I’m curious where the money to fund night owl service will come out of SDOT’s budget. The Mayor seems to believe that service to West Seattle is the city’s top transit priority, which represents a poor understanding of the Transit Master Plan and current plans for its implementation. Rasmussen has a much better grasp of what is in the works and seemed to provide some assurance that this won’t affect projects already getting started (Center City Connector, Madison BRT), but I didn’t hear that from Murray.

    1. According to Martin’s post above he said West Seattle AND Ballard. So hopefully it won’t just be West Seatttle.

  7. “protections in the intergovernmental agreement so that the post-cut network is the baseline for Metro’s service allocation decisions”

    What does this mean?

      1. It means that when Metro adds service hours they don’t factor in who added their own service back in the meantime, I believe. That way they don’t just shift shared resources away from Seattle.

  8. The Mayor’s office says these are good for Seattle employers and they keep cars off Seattle’s streets. Seattle residents righteously indignant at this “subsidy” for suburban residents might consider that 100% of Sound Transit Express service is funded by suburban subareas.

    If they are good for Seattle employers, then employers should pay for them; they don’t do anything for the residents who are paying for the tax.

    Whether Sound Transit Express buses is service is funded by suburban areas is not really salient. What has one got to do with the other? If the suburban folks think they are getting a bad deal for those express buses, then let’s talk about that separately from this. The fact one thing might be unfair doesn’t justify doing something obviously unfair.

    It’s almost like “well Germany invaded Poland, so why can’t Russia invade Ukraine?” It’s a fairly idiotic justification.

    1. You have to look at why these employer plans were started. It was a way to wean employers off cars and free parking, and to increase transit ridership. Those were seen as good for everybody, and a necessary step to decrease SOV commuting. It worked. It may be time to modify the program now, and perhaps gradually phase the subsidies out. But don’t just cut them off completely right now and say “it’s the employer’s responsibility”. The employers might respond by going back to their old habits, which would increase SOVs, decrease transit use, and make people even more unwilling to cut back on off-site parking spaces. That would bring us back to square one.

      1. I am not saying we shouldn’t have the buses, I am just saying that:

        1) These buses don’t benefit Seattle residents the same way in-city routes do (this is fairly obvious and uncontroversial I think)
        2) These buses benefit Seattle employers because it keeps them from having to provide parking, transportation options, etc.
        3) These buses benefit suburban residents for similar reasons
        4) Martin (correctly) anticipated that some people would think this is unfair to tax Seattle residents to pay for services for non-residents and businesses, because it bloody well is. Especially when you consider the entire raison d’etre for this city-only bill is that the suburbs voted against buses.
        5) So Martin brought up Sound Transit Express buses as an example of a subsidy that could be going the other way, implying that this is sufficient justification for this new subsidy.

        I know this is completely idiotic because that fact that one thing (ST Buses) might be unfair (we don’t even know that it is actually), we shouldn’t just go ahead and make a bunch of other unfair things (in-city subsidies for out of city routes).

        That logical hole has no where to go but very bad places, an example:
        Rich people pay for museums poor people may also benefit from.
        We should tax poor people to pay for symphonies only rich people benefit from.

        That is obviously idiotic and unfair, same thing with these buses.

  9. >> Transportation Chair Tom Rasmussen, in response to a question, suggested he preferred VLF to property tax because Seattle voters have already approved it.

    So what, Tom? Every editorial I read, both pro and con, complained about the taxing mechanism. Every person I talked with, especially those on the fence, complained about the taxing mechanism. The rebuttal to the argument was always “we have no choice”. But now, we do have a choice. If the city just passed this tax increase (without a vote) then I would be OK with it. But this has to go to the voters as well.

    The other part of the argument just doesn’t make sense to me. The mayor and Rasmussen are worried about two property taxes on the same ballot, followed by a third a little while later. Again, so what? This is essentially what they fear:

    Seattle Voter: “Oh my, two property taxes on the same ballot. Heavens no, that is too much. I like buses, but the little kids will have to fend for themselves”.

    But now, with this new proposal:

    Seattle Voter: “Well, a property tax and a sales tax and a vehicle tax isn’t too bad. I mean, it would be bad if it was all one tax, but because they are different taxes, I’ll vote for all of them”.

    Sorry, but that is crazy. Either way it costs the same amount. My guess is, for the average tax payer, a property tax increase will cost them less. Anyone can own property in this city (and lots of people do) but to spend money on the sales tax, you generally have to be in the city. Likewise with the car tab tax. Plus a property tax is progressive, while a sales and car tab tax is not. To think that the left wing voters of this city — voters so left wing that they elected a Socialist — would prefer a sales and car tab tax over a property tax is ridiculous.

    I don’t fault the efforts of the mayor and Rasmussen. I really like the rest of this (the Community Mobility contracts). But the logic behind the taxes is just ridiculous. Essentially they are afraid that after passing a tax increase for buses and little kids that people in Seattle will draw the line at parks. That is a valid concern, but if they draw the line, it won’t matter what types of taxes they are.

    1. I agree that a property tax is preferable to a sales tax. A flat car fee is also not a progressive tax, and it especially hurts poor families who are more likely to need a car relative to singles, etc.

    2. If you open up a property tax, you also open it up as a mechanism for many of the other things that Seattle voters seem to want.

      If you squeeze in another tiny sliver on an unappealing and already high tax, sales or tag fees, then the well might soon run dry.

    3. The new park levy will double the one that’s expiring to 37 cents per $1000 of valuation (forever). Then the newly created Metropolitan Park District (MPD) has the ability to increase it up to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value without any vote by Seattle voters.

      That’s why they don’t want a competing transit property tax levy.

      1. I assume most folks w/ an ounce of sense will vote against that “rigged” park proposal…

  10. Rather have the progressive property tax but I like letting suburbs like Mercer Island and Kirkland buy in too – with a property tax

  11. I’m surprised that Sawant has not stood up for Plan C over Plan D.

    I can’t see how D can jibe with her principals, whereas C is everything she purports to stand for.

    No skin off my nose, except I would not want a Plan D to come to Kent.

    1. What don’t you want to come to Kent? Kent can decide its own tax mechanism and rate, under the state limits. It can choose property tax, and a low one at that. It can tell Metro to focus on the main corridors rather than spreading it thin. It could create Don’t-Call-It-RapidRide on Kent-Kangley Road and 104th/132nd.

    2. Because John doesn’t think the tax is a good one. He prefers a property tax, or better yet, a capitol gains tax, over a regressive tax (like a sales and/or flat car tab tax).

  12. Property tax has my support, 100%.

    Using a VLT is the best way to rile up the opposition, including the Seattle Times, who will bombard voters with opinion articles focused on the poor drivers who are subsidizing the wealthy bus riders and unions.

    Unless the governor, DOT, mayor, council, and metro actually want to take the time to educate the local press and population on how transportation is financed people are going to continue with their misconception that drivers are paying for everything with declining gas tax revenue.

    1. They’ll be bombarding people with lots of stuff: “Don’t vote left”, “bury the parks”, “why fund politicians, we like corporations speaking for people!”, “screw the kids, we need an uneducated workforce like our newspaper staff” etc. The meme ain’t gonna play in Seattle.

  13. Two more votes for the property tax option in this household. Many older people I know never ride the bus and will not vote to raise their car tab fees, but will agree that property taxation is progressive and equitable and vote yes for that option. Apt. dwellers who don’t own cars will have to pay eventually through slightly higher rents.

    1. Apartment dwellers will pay higher rents soon and well into the future because of market forces causing Seattle rents to jump across the city, not because of an incremental increase of property taxes.

      Yes renters do pay property taxes indirectly, but in this market they’re simply not the driving force behind rent prices.

      $154 per year on a $700,000 property (levy rate is $.22 per $1,000 of assessed value) that’s rented out to four people for 12 months works out to be an extra $3.21 per person per month.

      Nobody is going to raise the rent $3 for that, but they’ll happily raise the rent $100 just because they can get it.

    2. Rents are already increasing every year more than taxes and maintenance costs are. If the post-crash apartment boom hadn’t happened and caused unprecedented rent increases, landlords would still be making a profit. Therefore they’re making a screaming windfall now, so that’s plenty to offset increased taxes.

      1. I agree. Unlike a lot of supply and demand situations, property tax increases aren’t necessarily “passed on” to consumers the way that, say, a cigarette tax is. I’m no economist, but thinking logically, I came to the conclusion that unless the landlord is being generous (which happens) then an increase in property taxes won’t increase rent: https://seattletransitblog.com/2014/04/24/a-seattle-initiative-to-save-service/#comment-459532
        But like I said, I could be wrong. Feel free to slice and dice my logic.

    3. Hmm.. not my experience at all. Most of the older people I know complain about *any* new tax cutting into their “fixed incomes”. Property taxes, though, are a particularly tricky subject since you hear all sorts of rhetoric about them being “forced” out of their home.

      1. The “forced out of the home” argument for an elderly persons is complete B. S. You can get a reverse mortgage. You can even just let the state put a lean on the house. No one is forced out of their home because of high taxes. Your heirs, on the other hand, don’t inherit the house. Boo Hoo. You did your job. You raised your kids to be self sufficient. All you need to leave them is the sentimental objects that meant a lot to you and the knowledge that you raised them right. With any luck they will do the same for their kids.

      2. Not to mention that there are a number of programs available to seniors to defer their taxes. I agree that the argument is nonsense, but that doesn’t stop it being made.

      3. I can certainly see the “Taxed out of Our Home” argument happening in some places, but in looking at this web page:
        http://www.seattle.gov/oir/datasheet/industry.htm
        the Seattle property tax rate, collected by King County, is $9.63 per $1,000.

        The current assessed value of my house here in SE Portland is $93,290 and taxes are $1,594.21. That seems to work out to about $17 per $1,000.

        If you want to protect seniors from getting kicked out of their house, the best thing to do is to limit the rate of property tax increases on residential properties unless the property changes hands or is significantly redeveloped (this is why my house is probably closer to $150,000 market value but only taxed at $93,290).

  14. On the one hand, C is clearly better than D: property tax is better than car tabs and sales tax (and I prefer 118’s clarity about keeping the money in Seattle). But is it better enough to cause a needless rift about whether or not to support the Mayor’s plan within the transit community, and to antagonize potential allies in government? Probably not, but I’m open to being convinced I’m wrong about that.

    1. Me too. I think at this point it is up to the council, not the general public, to say that a property tax makes way more sense. We have about twenty comments now on a transit blog and they all say the same thing: This is good, but a property tax would be better. Unless someone can come up with a good argument otherwise (and I’ve yet to hear one) I see no reason why the city council can’t simply substitute a property tax and be done with it.

  15. I’m at least happy to see the City is taking this seriously. I’m agnostic on the proposed means to pay for the buses.

    1. OK, we have about dozen supporters of the property tax, none in opposition, but one abstention. I’m still waiting for someone to say they support a sales and car tab tax.

      1. I’ll say I somewhat support the car tab fee, but then I don’t own a car! And, it discourages driving, car ownership. I’m not keen on sales tax, but it’s so negligible for me that it doesn’t matter. I’d come out far and away ahead than if it was property tax.

      2. I’m still waiting for someone to say they support a sales and car tab tax.

        There’s a substantial part of my that really wants to, because I want to make car ownership more expensive for Pigovian reasons–it has externalities and should be discouraged, in a way property ownership shouldn’t. But the broad necessity of car ownership–and the functional difference of progressivity in the world as it actually exists–keeps me from pulling the trigger on that preference.

  16. This may jeopardize future transit funding votes that may involve other places in King County, as this will diminish the mass of YES votes in future elections from Seattle because some Seattle residents will be less likely to vote for more fees/taxes in later votes.

    1. Given the margin of loss in the suburbs, that’s probably the least of our problems at a future countywide ballot.

  17. Given the need to protect some service outside of Seattle in King County, I suspect that fare increases are inevitable – even for Seattle residents. It will be interesting to see how the timing works out between fare increases and this vote.

    1. Fares have always been planned to go up, again, whether or not Prop 1 passed in the county.

  18. FWIW, I’m not surprised about the reaction in Shoreline, which was IIRC the most “pro-Prop 1” jurisdiction outside of Seattle.

    It really sounds like everyone prefers Ben’s property tax proposal to Murray’s flat-fees-and-sales-tax proposal. Heck, makes sense to me.

  19. I voted no on Prop #1 because it was financed by a regressive and ugly tax. I would have supported Ben’s idea of a property tax but I will again be voting no on the Mayors plan. It doesn’t even try to be progressive by cutting low invome people a break.

    I wish Ben would keep pushing his plan.

    1. Scooter rider sez:

      “It doesn’t even try to be progressive by cutting low invome people a break.”

      From the post:

      “The remaining $2m will fund a VLF rebate for low-income residents.”

    2. I realize we get to have this debate a second time around, but this was my point last time and now this time: I’m far more willing to suck up a regressive tax than to take the hit on bus cuts.

      Here’s the thing, if cuts happen, it pushes people to other modes like cars. Once that change happens, getting them back onto the bus or other transit methods is very difficult. We should be increasing ridership, not pushing it down with cuts, and if this is the mechanism for preventing those cuts, then so be it. Would I prefer a property tax? Damn straight, and I own a house in Seattle, but if wishes were horses we wouldn’t need buses. When confronted with “do nothing and watch the bottom fall out” or “go for less-than-idea,” I’m taking the second choice every time.

    3. Contact the members of the city council. They can still modify the mayor’s proposal.

  20. I know the conventional wisdom was that an April special election was a bad time to have the Prop 1 vote, but it did have the advantage of being the only measure on the ballot, which made it easier for the campaign.

    Now it looks like we’re going to have a vote on saving bus service on the same ballot as Pre-K. Given what Murray and councilmembers have shown their priority to be (Pre-K) and that this would represent a large expansion of the city government’s role in education, I could see that issue taking center stage and drowning out the bus campaign. Seattle may have voted yes on Prop 1, but how many of those voters realize it didn’t pass? Never underestimate the ignorance of the electorate.

    1. I actually wonder if he even really wants this to pass…I think it’s to distract voters from using the space left on property to fund metro and not pre-K. I am very cynical about this new mayor. Wolf in sheep’s clothing I think. I am voting no.

      1. Huh? If pre-K, parks, and Bridging the Gap are competing for space with bus service under the property tax lid, then the mayor has a justifiable reason for using sales tax again, unless, of course, one doesn’t want to vote for pre-K, parks, or BtG. The mayor is not hiding his support for these.

    2. Since the state has failed for many years — including many years of Democrat absolute control — to adequately fund public education (the state supreme court’s opinion, not just mine), I’m glad some level of government cares, and cares to fund the years that matter most: the earliest ones.

      Nor is this a new issue for Seattle voters. Remember the latte tax? I voted Yes, but the funding source ended up being too wierd for most voters.

      Yesterday’s press conference seemed like an odd time to be promising that if Democrats re-take absolute control, then there will be a massive statewide transportation (read: highway expansion) proposal. Look: the Democrats have not gotten the job done for decades on multi-modal transportation. Where is the state funding for transit like nearly every other urban state in the US has? Why is the state not funding the ST3 construction projects? Why does that all have to be paid for locally?

      Why should we expect a Democratically-controlled legislature to do any better than the failures we witnessed under a the previous decade of absolute Democrat control? …when they are busy promising to do the same things they were doing during that time, at press conferences like yesterday’s?

  21. I’m a property owner (COOP apartment) who whole heartily supports the Property Tax Option. Ben, please lets get it on the ballot — Ed Murray’s proposal is regressive, punitive to low income people and not tax deductible Let the voters decide if they want to support transit, parks, and schools — my own personal order is public safety, education, transit, and then parks. The State Legislature (of which Murray was a prominent member) has screwed up funding for education, transit and parks — why should we continue to buy the B.S. of someone like Murray — lets fix it – we’ll be a better city. (Further disclosure, I’m on a route to be discontinued in the first round [47] and was a firm supporter of Mike McGinn)..

    1. Hi Garrison,

      Since you bring up the 47, I’m wondering what you’d like to see happen to that route after U-Link opens.

      1. Combine two dead bus driving routes (47 and 25) and go to the Cap Hill station (40′ diesel bus), not down town…ideal for me. (From my apartment its an uphill hike to Broadway). OR build a cross freeway walking bridge at Republican or Harrison so we can reconnect to the Cascade District. (SLU)
        Really ideal — tear down or cover I5 — I might get a quiet nights sleep then.

  22. Why would anyone want to save the 158? To whomever would propose such a grand waste of money, I will gladly buy you a day pass on Sounder. (But I do hope the *168* gets more investment.)

    Limit: First five takers.

  23. I can think of at least one elected official who voted Yes on Prop 1, and will probably not support using the same funding sources for a city proposition: Kshama Sawant. Property tax isn’t exactly a tax on millionaires, but it gets as close as anything I can think of. I hope she calls foul on using the most regressive option. It’s time someone calls b.s. on using sales tax just because we can.

    1. I agree. Sales tax isn’t the right vehicle for metro. I have to say no to this and hope we get a property tax option.

      1. Actually, Most of Metro’s funding already comes from sales tax. It’ll take a political sea change to remove the inertia on that unfortunate reality, as we saw in yesterday’s bad inductive reasoning.

        Our legislators should be pushing for a higher property tax lid, or even a corporate income tax, or closing all the corporate tax loopholes they created during the McIntire years, not trying to open up more regressive revenue sources that are specifically for transit. Now is a teachable moment to make that clear, while the Seattle TBD Board is debating the details of a ballot proposition.

        Hooray for Ben pointing out that we can use a progressive funding source! The mayor’s straw argument that he is being accused of being anti-transit should instead be that some are accusing him of being anti-poor. (Ben isn’t, but I guess my arguments point in that direction, so the mayor would be right to say the accusation is being made, and well, I don’t have a good counter at the moment.) I do honestly want the mayor to be the best mayor he can be, and earn re-election. Reconsidering his insistence that bus service be funded with the most regressive options on the table might put me in his camp.

  24. Um, Mr. Mayor, we do have “real BRT in this state”. We just don’t have it in King County yet.

    1. +1, Anandakos. Yeah, what bus system has 100% off-board fare payment, signal priority and a complete, continuous bus lane anywhere in Washington State……….oh, right. Apparently Snohomish County seceded from Washington State in a referendum during the last election.

  25. IMO, the signature gathering for the transit funding initiative should be restarted.
    Modifications to final wording could be made to only allow the winner of the two funding alternatives to be implemented.
    There would be a choice and the effect of the mayor’s sense of priorities would be reduced.

  26. As much as I don’t like the regressive nature of the taxes I think I understand why Murray and members of the council want to use the car tab fee and sales tax.

    The taxes authorized by the legislature can only be used for transportation purposes, while property taxes can be used for anything the city wants to do.

    If the council and mayor going to insist on using the car tab fee and sales tax, they should put some sizzle in the steak. Ask for a $100 car tab fee and include some new service and capital spending. Madison BRT and central connector along with things like bus lanes, signal priority, bus bulbs, stop improvements, new trolley wire (48, 7 to RBS, move 3/4 to Yesler, etc.) should be enough to say service will be improved.

  27. I disagree that both property taxes and sales taxes bring the same benefit. The importance of precedence is lost. Seattle should be funding transit service. Period. 118 begins the transition of Seattle into funding transit that makes sense for the growing city it is. Once we start using property taxes we can start looking into urban funding mechanisms that other cities use such as parking revenues, commercial property transit impact fees, and city bonds. All of these funding options will be fought by the Seattle elites. They would rather you fund transit service to their highrises with your 2006 Honda or your little condo in Fremont. Meanwhile, through the system of county voting, residents in Enumclaw are making decisions on how late you should go out in Seattle.

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