Reuven Carlyle

Last week, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) told the Times that transportation was on the back burner ($) until the legislature handled the education funding shortfall. In a session where even Republicans are on board with a large new Sound Transit tax authorization, and with deadlines for non-budget bills to escape committee fast approaching, I found this quite worrisome. Additional transit projects are too important to lose because of brinksmanship over an unrelated issue.

With HB 1180 – the pure ST authorization bill – still in the Finance Committee and this Friday a deadline for non-budget bills to leave committee, I asked Finance Chair Reuven Carlyle (D-Ballard) what was going to happen. And rest assured that he has our back:

We expect that SHB 1180 is exempt from the fiscal committee cutoff and we will have confirmation on Monday [today] of that ruling.  If it is ruled otherwise by counsel, I assure you that I will move a version of the bill out of Finance prior to the deadline on Friday.  The Majority Leader’s statement was more about timing and the focus on McCleary and transportation than the mechanics of committee deadlines.  We will not allow, in any way, the bill to fail based on committee deadlines. I am working closely with Reps. Fey, Farrell, Walkinshaw, Clibborn and others to maintain the progress.

He really couldn’t have made that reply any clearer.

Speaker Chopp’s office has not yet replied to my email.

21 Replies to “ST3 Authorization Will Get Out of House Committee”

  1. I’m not encouraged. It seems like the too many of the R’s are using the prospect of a transportation package as a vehicle for other ideological attacks. Exempting rood projects from sales tax is really just an attack on the funding for the rest of government (social services). And poison pills to attempt to handcuff the governor from taking action on carbon is a bit silly\ — any action on carbon should be debated on its own merit.

    That said, I think the R’s do understand that tying Roads to Transit in a statewide vote like last time is a losing proposition. But unfortunately they don’t seem to have found a better course forward.

    Question: If road projects are exempt from sales tax under the R’s proposal, does that mean that ST3 projects are also exempt from sales tax? I think I know the answer, but……

  2. Is the Democrat preference for higher sales taxes, car tab taxes and property taxes driven by how the rich and corporations do not favor payroll taxes? The regressive taxing here — particularly for transit — already is far higher than anywhere else in the country.

    1. The Dems are working with the tools that are available. Most taxes, other than a progressive income tax, are somewhat regressive. The income tax option isn’t available, so it’s not a matter of Dems choosing regressive taxes.

      Transit spending is more progressive than many other things that are tax-supported.

      So, I’m not sure that the net effect of using these taxes for transit is regressive at all.

      1. It certainly is a matter of democrats choosing regressive taxes.

        Payroll taxes are a “tool” available to Democrats. Employers with fewer than 30 employees could be exempt, and employers with more than 200 employees could pay more. That would be progressive.

        Bonds secured by fare revenues and LID assessment revenues also could be used. The statute prohibiting taxing certain types of development could be repealed, and those taxes could be used to finance transit.

        Wholesale petroleum sales could be taxed for transit. Commercial property sales could be taxed for transit. The MTA in NYC is financed in part using those revenue sources, along with payroll taxes.

        There are lots of progressive “tools” available to democrats here. No peer uses income taxes solely for transit. You are wrong on each point you raise.

      2. . . . Another thing: You say “most taxes are regressive”. None are as regressive as sales taxes and car tab taxes, and those already are imposed at the highest levels in the country for transit here. What would be wrong with some balance? What’s the argument against progressive payroll taxes? It’s time for Boeing and Microsoft and Amazon to have some skin in the game.

      3. “What’s the argument against progressive payroll taxes?”

        It’s a “job killer”. Did you have to ask? :)

    2. Property taxes are actually relatively low here.

      Payroll taxes are too close to income axes to have much of a chance here.

      Thanks to little general fund contributions toward transit it is funded almost entirely by local taxes.

    3. Commuter rail is far too expensive in this state, and there is zero protection for the taxpayers from Board of Directors abuses.

      This has to stop, and Reuven Carlisle knows it.

  3. Considering housing, groceries, and medicine are exempt from sales tax, I’m not sure if sales tax is actually that regressive in Washington.

    And considering that the Senate has put into place a requirement that any new type of tax get a 2/3rds vote, many of the taxes you suggest are not in fact available to Democrats.

      1. While ST3 taxes only require a simple majority they will be put before voters in the Sound Transit district. Or did you miss the Sound Move and ST2 votes?

  4. The three commenters above are just making excuses for the democrats.

    — Payroll taxes are not job killers.

    Washington’s 2014 job growth wasn’t as good as Oregon’s and it uses payroll taxes for transit and it imposes an income tax:

    http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/12/22/which-states-created-the-most-jobs-in-2014

    — Property taxes here are WAY high.

    Residents in King County pay on average around $4,507 annually in property tax:

    http://www.komonews.com/seattlerefined/the-home/King-County-has-the-highest-property-tax-rates-of-WA-256046611.html

    Figure 2 here shows how much higher that average household property tax bill is compared to 95% of the country:

    http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/UploadedPDF/412959-Residential-Property-Taxes.pdf

    — Also, Sound Transit’s board announced it wanted additional sales taxes, car tab taxes and property taxes before the republicans announced their “two-thirds” rule (plus, that can be overcome by applying political pressure).

    1. At the state level Washington property taxes are relatively low both in absolute value and as a percentage of home value, especially when compared to other states without an income tax.

      If you look at other counties with relatively high property values (in other words large cities) the per-household level for King county is not out of line especially when relatively high median incomes are factored in. As a percentage of total value property taxes in King county are in the lower half of the range nationally.

      As to payroll taxes being ‘job killers’ I don’t think Mike was claiming he believes they are but that is an argument that would be used against them.

      Lastly “the fault dear Brutis, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves”. Which is to say the tax structure in Washington is due to the desires of your fellow citizens and is not the ‘fault’ of any one party. Though to be fair one party in particular has been absolutely opposed to income and payroll taxes for at least the past 35 years.

  5. Sound Transit’s job isn’t to rewrite the tax code of the State of Washington. Their job is to construct and operate rapid transit in the urban areas of Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties.

    I don’t want Sound Transit trying to bend the curve when it comes to the state’s tax mix. I want them to win at the ballot and build and operate rapid transit.

    Last time we ran an income tax it failed. Last time ST ran a sales tax and MVET campaign it passed. I hope they stick with what works.

    If you want better tax options, stop expecting other people to fight that fight for you. Go out and organize around getting more progressive taxes constitutional and acceptable to the public.

      1. All are existing taxes. You want them to not only get the leg to create new taxes, but then to try and convince voters to vote for it.

        Last time we ran an income tax it failed. Last time ST ran a sales tax and MVET campaign it passed. I hope they stick with what works.

        And the average household in the ST district pays less than $80 a year for ST2.

  6. @Dan Ryan Indeed, Dems are working with the tools available. However, to date they have no interest in ensuring that those tax revenues are spent wisely. The assumption is always that if the agency says the “need” it, give them a blank check. With Sound Transit, they continue to pour millions into Sounder-North, yet the costs are light years from being justified by the low ridership where, for every single station on the route, there are express bus options (in other words, if there was no Sounder-North, the folks taking it would still have viable transit options).

    Just in the last year or so, it’s been reported that, because King County Metro had an independent, comprehensive audit as well as peer audits, they found millions of dollars in cost savings that spared having additional service hours cut. They also unveiled their “alternative services” program in the Snoqualamie Valley, something that I think all of the other Puget Sound transit agencies should replicate. Further, because Island Transit did not have either a requirement or a push to do so, they had to dramatically cut service with a few weeks’ notice (Metro got their push by the drive to avoid service cuts, then by the failure of King County Proposition 1). It’s also been reported that one of the smaller transit agencies pays their chief executive notably more than Metro does, though the latter is considerably larger.

    How can we improve? Add minimum transparency and accountability requirements for all agencies that get significant public funding. Regular, independent, comprehensive performance audits. Transparency might include having meetings, staff reports, etc. online. Accountability might include having regular project status reports online. New requests might have tangible cost for an average family per year and how much over the project’s lifetime.

    These are other people’s monies as well as ours. We should all have the comfort that these dollars are being spent wisely rather than signing a blank check. Hopefully, Metro will continue their endeavor to improve with their review last summer of their fare policies, even though Seattle voters have now provided them with an influx of money that could get Metro off of the valuable tangent of standardizing fare policies.

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