Less than 10 hours after the public received details about the state legislature’s transportation package, the Senate approved it. By the time you read this, the House’s vote will be imminent. Governor Inslee is a party to the deal and unlikely to veto any section of it. We’re not ones to lament lack of process — a good bill is a good bill even without public comment, and a bad one is bad even with it — but the lack of time to even digest the legislation, much less mobilize around it, is breathtaking.

We’re left with only the opportunity to reflect on what is about to become law. The basic highway/transit tradeoff was probably inevitable, because our allegedly climate-focused Governor either doesn’t grasp or doesn’t care about the link between highways and carbon emissions, and therefore fought hard for the highways. We were ready to grudgingly accept that deal, partly because some of the highway projects were at least defensible from a transit advocate’s perspective. But the additional stipulations are too onerous to accept.

First, there’s a further $500m subsidy of drivers by taking tax revenue from the general fund — from schools, state parks, health care, social services, public safety and all the other things the State does — and give it to WSDOT through a new sales tax exemption.

To raise the Sound Transit 3 revenue authority from $11 billion to $15 billion, the State will claim over $500m of that ST revenue, intended for transit, in addition to having Sound Transit forfeit virtually all state grants (already pathetically behind other urbanized states). So this last $4 billion of taxes will purchase perhaps $3 billion of transit. The $500m replaces the $500m WSDOT exemption, a barely obscured transfer of regional transit funds to statewide highways.

And then there’s the provision banning low-carbon fuel standards, which shows that Senate Republicans care so little about non-car modes of transportation that they will gleefully use its funding as a hostage.

In the short term, there’s little we can do about these bills. Perhaps there will be an initiative or referendum to target one or more package elements. A good target would be SSB 5990, the sales tax exemption, a straight giveaway to construction contractors and to WSDOT, the single state agency doing the most to aggravate the climate problems that are already damaging our state’s economy, at the expense of everything else the State does to serve its citizens.

The STB Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Frank Chiachiere, and Brent White.

104 Replies to “Senate Ransoms Transit; House Voting Today”

  1. Thanks for covering this. I am a strong supporter of the governor, but I think he blew this one, big time. His original budget proposal was a mess. It contained lots of roads of dubious value that were clearly designed to win votes. This very much weakened his bargaining position. He should have started out with a budget focused on maintenance and “finishing what we started” (like 520). Pushing for the cap and trade provisions would have been fine, although it being pulled out was inevitable. The end result would have been a much smaller road package, with voters deciding whether to add transit or not. Now we have to swallow this mess and hope that Sound Transit comes up with something people like.

    1. This mess was inevitable: it’s a cost of failing to retake the Senate in the 2014 midterms.

      I’ll remind everyone that in 2012, this publication, the Seattle Transit Blog, foolishly endorsed Republican Barbara Bailey, thinking that the defeat of Mary Margaret Haugen would be good for transit.

      What happened? Bailey won (though I doubt STB’s endorsement had much to do with it) while Republican incumbents targeted by Democrats survived. That put Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon in a position to deliver the Senate to the Republicans. Tom and Sheldon, along with Jim Kastama, had previously worked with Republicans to hijack control of the Senate the session before, so their willingness to scheme and plot was well known.

      Had Haugen been reelected, the Democratic majority would have endured, and Republicans would never have taken control of the Senate.

      Had progressives worked harder to keep Nathan Schlicher in office in 2013, and not about which progressives would be on the city council or in the mayor’s office in Seattle, we could have retained an important seat in a crucial special election in a swing district. Instead, we narrowly lost Schlicher’s seat and ended up with Jan Angel.

      And last year? We could not get any of the good Senate Democratic challengers like Matt Isenhower, Seth Fleetwood, Irene Bowling, or Shari Song elected. We needed to pick up two seats and we didn’t.

      Considering our poor track record in Senate elections over the last few years, we shouldn’t be surprised that we’re in a position where our pro-transit legislators are forced to pay a ransom.

      1. MMH delivered to her district exclusively in the 2007 Port Townsend ferry fiasco. Due to not wanting a new terminal at Keystone which will be needed anyways, she used this as an opportunity to funnel around $300 million for 3 vessels that simply are inadequate for anywhere other than two runs in the system.

      2. Agreed. MMH’s meddling in operational issues and other matters she should not have been involved in has caused hundreds of millions of damage to WSF, much of which the agency will be stuck with for 50+ years. The boats can’t be used anywhere and worse are inadequate even in an emergency because they cannot make anywhere near the design speed. Additionally they are non-environmentally friendly ferries that guzzle fuel and will until they get their mid-life refits in 30 years. Those same ferries also furthered the goal of making it impossible to move the Keystone dock to a better location which as you noted will need to be done eventually anyways.

        MMH may have been a costly seat to lose but no party can/will allow someone who is actively damaging his/her party through blind district selfishness over and over again to receive blind party support with each election. There has to be a line.

      3. I was running errands while the Mary Margaret Haugen (MMH) discussion was taking place so forgive me.

        But one consequence of the Barbara Bailey endorsement is the moral responsibility to Northwest Washington State to help the County Connectors along. In return, we have a State Senator & State Representative publicly campaigning for transit who happen to be Republicans.

        I agree totally MMH had to go. MMH was about funneling transit money to her district for Island Transit (even though we’ve learned MMH had misgivings), messing around with WSF for political gain, for the Stanwood Amtrak Cascades station that is the worst for ridership on the route, and MMH as Senate Transportation Committee Chair tried to stick it to Sound Transit in the process the way Curtis King is now. See third paragraph of http://www.seattlemet.com/articles/2012/11/2/a-risky-game-for-transit-advocates for the ugly details.

        At least now we are on the cusp of some serious transit relief packages. The pricetag for them is high, but oh well… it’s a compromise deal.

      4. At least now we are on the cusp of some serious abominable transit relief packages

        Fixed.

      5. Stanwood amtrak money better off spent being flushed down the toilet. At least this way we know where it’s going!!

      6. Remember, you had a couple of sellout/traitor Dems who decided to cross the aisle and vote with the Republicans. Can’t really blame the voters for that. :-P

  2. Assuming the $500 million transfer from Sound Transit to the general fund happens only if ST 3 passes, the state has just given the “no” campaign one more item in their ammunition to ensure that ST 3 fails. Nobody is going to vote to raise local taxes, only to have the money siphoned off to the state’s general fund.

    Not that ST’s musings so far have given even us transit-supporters much reasons to vote for it anyway.

    Question: does “foregoing all state grants” mean that the 592’s extension to Olympia ends? Or, is that safe, since the money is technically funneled through Thurston County?

    1. Nobody is going to vote to raise local taxes, only to have the money siphoned off to the state’s general fund.

      They’ve done this several times, actually. Voters approved a high hotel tax in Seattle and a lower one in the rest of king county for the football stadium (one of the stadia, anyway). The state later took the money and put it into the general fund.

      1. This is incorrect. The hotel tax was voted on because residents knew it wouldn’t really impact them, aside from eating out at restaurants. And when the tax expired they attempted to shift the funds to the general fund, but were prevented from doing so.

    2. The sales tax provision was pushed by republicans in the Senate. The likely opponents of ST will be the anti-tax (mostly Republican) crowd in the region. The obvious response is that ST is just working with the tool box gioven them by the leading conservative thinkers in Oly.

    3. That extension even though it has sound transit livery and operated by them, is paid for by intercity transit through a grant. So they should be safe.

  3. I’m still trying to figure out how it’s okay to any of our Reps about taxing our ST dollars and transferring to WSDOT. I tweeted my Rep, Gael Tarelton who tweeted back (excuse the tweet-speak)

    @GaelTarleton: @themandotcom KC Exec supported .Maybe dvpmnt on this tomorrow. ST says Ballard, W.Stl key. 36th has $9M bus, 500K bike/ped in transpo pkg.

    I’ll probably send a follow up email to my congress people to figure out WTH is going on and report back if I find out anything interesting.

  4. Though this bill is far from imperfect, is it worse than the political ammunition provided to opponents of future transit bills and ballots if ST3 is voted-down? I’m genuinely not sure.

    I am inclined to believe that it’s about as good as we will likely see in Olympia’s current political climate and that voting ‘no’ will too-easily be framed as voters being tired of new taxes or somesuch.

    1. It’s fine if it is seen as “the voters don’t want new taxes”. That will lead to the situation in which Sound Transit is required to live within its current strictures to pay off the existing bonds. Nearly everyone on this blog agrees that Lynnwood/Overlake/Midway is enough!, except for a couple of new lines in Seattle.

      So, Seattle won’t get the lines that have to be subways — Ballard-UW and the “Metro 8” — or the WSTT. But it wasn’t going to get them anyway!!!!! The ST-staff-roll-of-the-eyes at any mention of the tunnel; the complete hostility toward “urban” station spacing in their “study” of Ballard-UW; and the identification of the useful end of the Metro 8 as “#25” on the projects list tell you everything you need to know about their understanding of urban transit needs.

      So I’m hoping for two things: first, that the ST area votes down the new project list (because it’s likely to be really stupid). And second that some mouth breather from East Anthill takes a look at the project list and screams “we won’t pay more taxes for Seattle’s roads!!!!!”, then gets an initiative overturning the whole mess on the ballot.

      From that smoking ruins Seattle can recover. All it needs to do is upzone every frequent service arterial and the two northend Link Stations and put curtain tolls at all the freeway exits in Seattle — after all, probably 75% of the people who take SOV’s to work in downtown Seattle or the U-District are from outside the city. The City can’t directly toll the freeways — they’re Interstate facilities and therefore effectively embargoed from congestion tolling — but it sure can toll the interface between the freeways and the city streets.

      The upzoning will guarantee a significant increase in taxable valuation which will give it the ability to provide the transit it needs, as does San Francisco with city-only taxation. The curtain tolling will raise revenue largely on the backs of the suburbanistas who don’t really contribute much to the city from which they so benefit.

      1. “Nearly everyone on this blog agrees that Lynnwood/Overlake/Midway is enough!, except for a couple of new lines in Seattle.”

        I’ll disagree with that. East Link extension to downtown Redmond is a dead obvious worthy ST3 project.

      2. Oh and I’d like to see Ballard to UW light rail for you guys, okay?

        Ok?

        I’m not out to get Seattle from Skagit.

        I’m out to make us all great and spread the net.

        That’s my agenda.

      3. aw,

        Agreed that Link to Redmond is certainly a “nice to have”. But will it be worth the $700 mill? That is not obvious. How many buses leave Redmond for downtown Seattle daily? The 545 has twenty-three runs between the hours of 6:00 and 9:00 AM, just shy of eight per hour. That’s about four Link trains worth of ridership. Through the middle of the day its base frequency is every ten minutes, which will just about match Link’s base headway. Metro apparently no longer runs Redmond-Seattle expresses.

        So, basically you would be replacing frequent buses with frequent trains on essentially the same headways. Since Link is going to Overlake anyway it would probably require only two extra trains, so in theory one would have a net reduction in labor costs during the peaks of 21 drivers and through the base service of 6 per hour.

        But LRT operators make more than coach drivers, and the cost of maintenance of those two extra trains is significantly more than the nine or so coaches they’d be replacing.

        So is it really a good use of funds? Probably so, but the truth is that ST can build it out of ordinary tax and operating income even if “ST3” fails. It would just take a little bit longer.

      4. Joe,

        So would all of us like to see Ballard to UW. But we won’t see it, regardless of the outcome of the “ST3” vote because it won’t be on offer. The “Westside Line” is baked into the cake. Did you see Ballard-UW on any ST discussion document in the past year? I haven’t.

        A serious fly in the “Orange Line” ointment is that nobody has seriously discussed how the trains are going to get from Stewart to the International District have they? The Ballard options specifically excluded the downtown crossing. The Southwest Corridor study “include[s] a downtown Seattle tunnel south of Westlake, probably [emphasis added] about $1 billion”, but no other information about that number is provided. In all honesty, that seems absurdly low given the existence of four other tunnels through downtown around which such a bore will have to navigate and the creation of at least three (and outta be more) stations.

        In any case, the North King subarea can’t afford the whole “Orange Line” package (Ballard-Downtown LRT, West Seattle Downtown LRT and a new LRT tunnel through downtown Seattle). The cost of “Hybrid Option C5” is shown as $4.1 to $5.4 billion. Tossing out a billion for the Burien-Renton BRT — it’ll need some elevation through Southcenter for sure — that means a low-end of $3.1 and high end of $4.4 billion. The C3 option to Ballard shows a very low cost of about $1 billion, but that assumes a couplet on Second and Fourth and operation on Denny Way. In other words, catastrophe. To be true LRT it would require a tunnel from the north end of the downtown tunnel to the Hillside above Elliott somewhere around Harrison. That can be mostly cut-and-cover, which is nice, but will still add at least another billion, and probably a billion and a half.

        So either Ballard-Downtown will be at-grade all the way or the West Seattle end will just have two stations: the Triangle and Alaska Junction. That’s a way to save money on the scope of the original study which took LRT to White Center.

        Essentially everyone from Ballard and Crown Hill and everyone from almost anywhere in West Seattle will have to transfer to Link just before their buses could get on a high priority facility whisking them to downtown Seattle in priority bus lanes. That’s of course if the city decides to assert some control over its transportation destiny instead of depending on the ability of suburbanites to recognize that their interests are not entirely parochial.

  5. “…but the lack of time to even digest the legislation, much less mobilize around it, is breathtaking.”

    Ah, we’re in special session with one day to go before the State has to shut down.
    How many curtain calls must the Fat Lady make before public input has run its course?

    1. Sure they’re way overtime, but that’s not the same as saying input has run its course. Zero people had the chance to comment on the Senate just declaring that they want to keep 3+% of ST’s revenue, just for spite. Republicans have correctly estimated that there’s pretty much nothing Dems won’t swallow to get a deal done.

    2. Which is unfortunate. I think it would actually be better for Democrats to just walk away on this one. If ST 3 doesn’t pass, the GOP effectively gets everything it wants, and we get nothing.

      And, with this latest pill to swallow – an explicit transfer to local transit dollars in one area to general government in the rest of the state – I don’t see how this is going to have a chance at the ballot box. The campaign opponents will exploit this over and over and make sure that everyone knows that a vote for ST 3 is a vote to send their local tax dollars to Olympia.

      1. Well..I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that the same R’s that balanced the $500M whole they blew in the general fund by diverting money from ST will also campaign against ST3. This is all ideologically based, and that ideology is pro-car, anti-Seattle, and anti-urban.

      2. When have the R’s not tried to meddle in PS business? It’s what they do best, it’s how we got this transpo plan.

  6. This is what happens when you elect Republicans to the state Legislature. Not that the Democrats have performed admirably in terms of presenting a workable alternative, but with a minority in one house and a majority in the other with the balance of power in anti-urban Democratic districts that hate Seattle, there’s only so much room to maneuver. Bad outcomes are inevitable.

    I think you have to take the deal, because it’s the best one available with the bad political hand we have. But that just makes it absolutely important to put forward a good ST3 package to spend the $14 billion (after accounting for the fiscal shenanigans) that the Legislature has granted. If we get a bad package for transit, it should go to defeat. If we get a good one, we should pass it. But we won’t have an option to do either if we don’t accept this particular deal.

    1. I’ve thought for a long while now that the state/county/city model of governance in the US is obsolete. It was created during an era when the majority of the population lived on rural farms, after all. In our era, cities are the centers of economy, and city interests barely overlap with rural interests. Why does Seattle have to keep going begging for support from the rest of the state?

      Cities should have more autonomy.

      1. I think I would prefer what has occurred in British Columbia with Regional Districts that encompass the major Metro areas. Therefore, it is one governance rather than spreading across multiple jurisdictions. Although we are quite similar to Ontario’s structure with GO Transit being like Sound Transit, and then various agencies throughout the cities serviced.

      2. Agree – cut the state taxes over and over and over again. We’ll replace them in the city and the urban counties and pay for our own stuff. Meanwhile, the welfare queen rural counties can finally get their wish of “paying your own way.” Spoiler alert – they’re going to hate it.

      3. Half of the state’s population lives outside the Seattle MSA. Good luck funding all your projects with half the tax base.

      4. Well, Absolutely, Certainly Ignorant, you’ve certainly proven your tag today. Sound Transit gets exactly zero percent assistance from Olympia and therefore your sainted “half the tax base”. Aside from the obvious reality that the B&O Tax that funds nearly everything the state does other than education and highways is overwhelmingly earned in the Puget Sound counties, the “half the tax base” outside the Sound Transit District is by and large the poor half.

        They may be strong in numbers, but they’re weak in earning power [and dare I say “smarts”?]

        Hmmmmm, probably better not or I’ll get an ad hominem slap from Martin.

    2. This is also what happens when you elect Democrats and they switch parties to the Republicans. Really, don’t forget that crap.

      1. So Nathanael

        After Republicans graciously agreed to give $15 Billion in taxation authority to ST3 and after Rep. Jessyn Farrell ( WEA Democrat) carved out $500 million not for transit in this state but for the Puget Sound education industry/educational industrial complex (up to you – phrases mean the same to me), you still wanna slag Republicans?

        It was many Republicans who wanted a referendum clause on the gas tax that might have just ended the highway expansion so many of us abhor – and Rep. Jessyn Farrell (WEA Democrat) who stood like George Wallace in the doorway of such.

        Clear now who the bad guys are? Hint: Look at your own party as you watch the House debate on the gas tax on TVW.

      2. [language]

        It was the Senate Republican block that demanded tribute from the taxpayers of Puget Sound — half a billion dollars of local-transit-initiative money, directly into state coffers for non-local-transit purposes, just to stick it to us — [language]

        [ad hominem]

      3. d.p.

        #1. I’m obsessed with holding ALL who screwed Sound Transit to account. Somehow a Skagitonian is fighting harder for Sound Transit than any of you down south. Whomever did this should understand right now we are going to help the best primary challenger we can…

        #2. Names please of Republicans who spoke against the referendum clause and for the transfer. Your reputation makes me think you haven’t even watched one of the marathon floor debates. It was Rep. Farrell who stood on the floor of the House to deny the referendum clause.

        We good now?

        #3. Profanity, please.

      4. OK DP, here’s the deal:

        “I’m hearing that a GOP PowerPoint briefing on the deal says Democrats made a concession on ST: In order to cover the money they think is being lost thanks to the GOP transportation sales tax provision, ST has to put $500 million into the state operating budget to offset the hit. And it’s not contingent on the public vote—so if ST3 loses at the polls, ST still has to cough up $500 million. (Update/Correction: Only ST3 projects would be taxed. Meanwhile, Sound Transit estimates that the tax will raise project cots one to two percent.)”

        So DEMOCRATS decided to cave on a Republican principle and offer up not ST3 but Sound Transit.

        Pal, we could have offered so many things up instead of transit. Or demanded the money stay in transit.

        Now I want NAMES of ALL “DEMOCRATS” who authorized this. Put them on an attack list – we tear them down and back their primary challenger(s). Tell them when you stand against a referendum on a gas tax and a $500 mil transfer to education from transit – the transit community is not going to take this laying down.

        Unless the transit community will… Joe over

      5. [language]

        It was the Republican Caucus that blasted a hole in the general fund with its WSDOT highway exemption.

        It was the Republican Caucus that poison-pilled the bill to kibbosh any future efficiency standards by holding transit and multi-modal project grants hostage.

        It was the Republican Caucus that wouldn’t let a transit levy authorization pass — [language] — without filling the aforementioned general-fund hole at gunpoint.

        And it was Farrell that, at the very least, drew a silver lining on the disaster by finding a way to keep our [language] money at least nominally local.

        [OT & ad hom] But facts are facts, and entitlement is entitlement. Don’t steal our [language] money for your Boeing subsidies and your stupid Tri-County Connector (the only local transit in the state paid for with our [language] money, not your own) and then tell us it’s anyone’s fault but the retrograde conservative [ad hom] you vote for.

      6. d.p.

        All I’m going to say to you this:

        a) I believe Sound Transit deserves the same exemptions WSDOT got – and more.

        b) Sound Transit shouldn’t have to pay for the WSDOT hole and if so, the money should have stayed in the transit community.

        c) “your stupid Tri-County Connector”? Okay how about your stupid streetcars that aren’t grade-separated and are good for tourists – like that huh? Actually I don’t care for sniping at fellow transit users, nor should you.

        Grow up.

      7. Joe, if I can chime in here –

        I also agree with your (a), and the first part of your (b). However, if Sound Transit is forced to pay for something, I think it’s more important that the money stay within the local community – the Puget Sound area. Originally, the money isn’t coming from “the transit community”; it’s coming from the tri-county ST district. When we tax ourselves, it should be to benefit ourselves, not the rest of the state.

        And far be it from me to speak against fundamental transit connectivity anywhere, but… the Tri-County Connectors are getting a unique subsidy from the state that isn’t being offered to (say) the 512/594 which are offering the exact same connectivity. That asymmetry can lead people to rationally and correctly point out the Tri-County Connectors in fact offer less benefits than the 512/594.

      8. Thanks William, I appreciate your support. I’ll be acute as I have work to do today.

        By transit community, one offer – if I was a State Representative or if Rep. Farrell could be trusted – would be if G*d forbid ST3 had to have this transfer, would be to transfer the ST money to Pierce Transit, Community Transit & King County Metro with a slice to WSDOT transit grants to be fair.

        As to the Tri-County Connector, all I’m going to say is read my story about it. You’ll notice thanks to so many being upset at the current state of affairs I think I speak from many transit advocates we will see some bus stops at Deception Pass to end this special deal that has caused so much chaos and disunity.

    1. She may not be so bad after all…

      It would be great if the whole thing went to referendum.

      Or at least a guarantee the Sound Transit money went to WSDOT grants for transit to help move that cause forward throughout the state or at least the Sound Transit district.

      But in the end, we need the best deal we can possibly get. There are important items that require the legislature to sign off on – Community Transit authority, aid for Island Transit’s recovery in the county connectors, and Sound Transit authority.

    2. I’d love to see a referendum on this. Local transit tax authority is completely unrelated to highway construction with state funds. They should not be in the same bill. Now if the state wanted to directly pay for Sound Transit in lieu of some of the Seattle-area highway projects, I could totally get behind that.

    3. A referendum is not a public comment period. If it goes to referendum and fails we are back to square one, with no shot at St funding in 2016, which is the only shot we have for 4 years.

  7. The sad truth is that ST3 (fast regional transit plus highways) is exactly the system has wanted and needed ever since the original 3 proposals were put on the table by Metro back in 1994.

    These are the systems people have always wanted…a quick way to get around the entire Puget Sound area. Quick access to the central core areas like Bellevue and Seattle. And the ability to travel at highway speed everywhere else.

    ST3 is a Revolution. It is a revolution of the masses of suburbanites, and corporate workers, who have left things up to the madmen urbanists for too long.

    1. You just posted pictures in the previous article of Queens neighborhoods. That’s urbanism! You’re working against your own goals. You make a strawman Manhattan bogeyman and say that’s what the madmen urbanists want but it’s not. Highrises are appropriate downtown and a few right around major stations. But Manhattan is so large that most of it is a downtown. In Seattle people get excited about highrises because so little of the city is zoned multifamily that all the density has to be squeezed into there.

      When you oppose density and make it out to be all highrises and a downtown highway tunnel, you’re implicitly siding with the proponents of cul-de-sacs and Surrey Downs and large freeway exits. Covington is not Nob Hill! Downtown Covington is maybe OK but outer Covington is not. If you oppose lowrise density you get sprawl. In other cities you get six-lane boulevards every mile (Dallas) and expressways (San Jose). Unwalkable!!! Not Queens!!! Depressingly ugly!!!

    1. Good question. That provision is in a separate section from ST authority so he prob can. It would create a hole in the budget though, as another bill lowers the taxes on WSDOT.

    2. The governor can veto any section of any bill that reaches his desk. Gov. Inslee is plentifully on record promising not to veto the poison pill clauses, but I haven’t seen any statement from him promising not to veto the $500 million ransom note.

      I don’t have time to look it up, but IIRC, bills necessary to the functioning of the state (e.g. budget bills) might not be subject to referendum via petition.

      1. So he should forego his power rather than doing what he thinks is right? Would a Republican governor do that? The legislature knows the governor has a line-item veto. It’s their responsibility to override it if they can. Just getting the governor to promise not to veto the centerpoint of the compromise (which is the carbon tax, not the ST budget raid) is a significant concession by the governor; they shouldn’t expect more.

      2. Yeah, mic is right. The leadership (including him) agreed to this. It would be crazy to for him to do a line item veto.

        It is different if the rank and file vote this down. That is normal and acceptable. They look at the complete deal and say “no thanks — I would rather have nothing”. Or they attach other clauses, which is basically saying the same thing (it would have to go back to the Senate).

      3. If only we had a system of government based upon checks and balances. One in which a duly-elected governor might use his bully pulpit to expose the flawed logic, deficient policy aims, codified injustice, and blatant theft of a bad legislative compromise. One in which he might threaten to use his veto power to prevent the sausage from coming out rancid.

        Why bother throwing metropolitan electoral weight, so necessary for any Democrat to prevail, behind an executive who sees himself as a glorified rubber stamp?

      4. d.p. I think four years of a Republican governor to the right of me – very easily possible – might dissuade you of those views. Republicans are grimacing over having to give Sound Transit $15 bil in authority – even though .5 $Bil is handed back to the state. Just imagine if a Republican Governor didn’t have to do that… or understand as I do that Sound Transit is vital to congestion relief.

      5. The notion that we should thank our lucky stars for $14.5 billion in “authority” to self-fund, at the cost of $500 million dollars in tribute to our rural masters, is as rancid as the aforementioned sausage.

      6. It’s not our authority. It’s the State’s authority, delegated to the RTA.

        It’s bothersome perhaps that a purportedly transit vote will fund highways. And that some of the money will flow out of the RTA.

        But those are second-order problems. It’s not theft when the state reserves a claim on the tax authority that was never ours to begin with.

      7. Attempt whatever spin or rationalizations soothe your mind.

        But in a world where most jurisdictions see their local needs supplemented from the general fund rather than punitively restricted to regressive and artificially limited local mechanisms, a requirement that such local mechanisms include a further transfer of moneys to unrelated and explicitly non-local purposes is virtually unprecedented.

        This is orchestrated, premeditated, and unabashed theft.

      8. Maybe next, the state will start decide to start taxing our property taxes. I can just see the bill. The city of Seattle (and no other city in the state) must contribute 10% of the property taxes it collects to the state general fund. In return, the city gets a higher cap on the tax rate, so it can fund the same services as before. Very generous.

        Of course, if ST3 fails, the whole thing becomes moot. Which may be how some Republicans were able to swallow a “yes” vote to allow the Puget Sound region ST 3 authority in the first place – they looked at what Sound Transit has put forth, figured it would be close, and decided that the $500 million nudge would get enough more “no” voters to fill out their ballots to decide the election.

      9. Joe,

        You still don’t get it. “Sound Transit” will do nothing for “congestion relief”. If people from 128th in SnoHoCo who now drive because they don’t like riding a bus stuck in the same traffic as their car decide to ride Link, new people from Smokey Point or [ad hom] in Skagit County will replace them on the freeway.

        What “Sound Transit” might have done was make it possible for Seattle and the inner ring of suburbs to become genuine metropoli. But the “planners” succumbed to “anti-stationitis”, an insidious virus which keeps whispering “but it’s another minute!” to every proposal for stations on their hygenic [no cooties can get on if the train doesn’t stop!] Light Rail To Nowhere.

  8. I think this is a bigger win for Sound Transit than we’re acknowledging (whether it’s a win for transit depends on what they do with the money, but we’ll get to that).

    Did we really believe there wouldn’t be a compromise along the way? A lot of the state doesn’t care about transit. ST has an opening bid of $15B and ends up with $14.5B. In the legislative sausage making factory, that’s as close to a clean win as I’ve ever seen.

    There’s a lot of unacknowledged fuzziness about where highway spending ends and transit spending begins. The HOT lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Renton alone are well over a billion dollars. A lot of the users will be on buses. Finishing the SR520 bridge isn’t irrelevant to our transit needs either.

    If they had billed ST for a share of the cost of I-405, it could have been over $500m on that project alone. The reason I-405 BRT looks cheap is that WSDOT has always been doing most of the work.

    Remember too, it’s not just Republicans who were nervous about Sound Transit’s ask. A lot of Dems were warily watching what the Sound Transit property tax hike would do to education funding (and the knock-on impacts to many other priorities). As citizens, we’re not indifferent to education or the other functions of government, are we?

    1. If ST3 goes down, the state’s sales tax revenue from ST will end up being a lot less than the sales tax revenue stream we’re giving up from WSDOT. That means hundreds of millions of dollars less for public education. The state supreme court may have something to say about this deal. As far as I can see, they are the only party looking out for public education.

    2. Agree. Despite the warts, that this legislature agreed to ST’s request and left the region’s discretion intact to determine the content of the ST3 plan, well, it’s really remarkable. I would have thought the Oly crowd would attempt to micro-manage the heck out of the stuff ST puts in the ballot measure. Small miracles.

  9. Folks in the end, we need the best deal we can possibly get. There are important items that require the legislature to sign off on – Community Transit authority, aid for Island Transit’s recovery in the county connectors, and Sound Transit authority.

    I know many of us do not like ALL of this deal but we all like SOME of this deal. Maybe that’s the point.

    I think we’re just going to have to take it, understand that we can tweak & line-item veto a bit here & there, but the reality is we also need to recognize the far-right-wing is putting out some gross distortions & condemnations of this deal as well. So if everybody’s angry about some of the deal but not all, the legislature might be doing something right in a compromise deal. Which is what transportation packages are.

    1. I do think if it passes, then we will have to fight tooth and nail to do a few things.

      1) Stop the SR 509 and 167 extensions. I think bringing enough vocal opponents will shut that down. I will fight these ones the best I can.
      2) Take care of the $500 million what I consider the poison pill of extracting money from Sound Transit for the DOT.
      3) Get rid of the sales tax exemption for road projects. School districts have to pay WSST on their projects, why do road builders get exempted?

      It doesn’t get the low carbon fuel standard but I am willing to sacrifice that, the megaprojects need to go and this posturing of $500 million is absolute garbage.

      1. I would probably be OK with just the first item. While I really don’t like items 2 and 3, they aren’t huge in my mind (not that much money, overall). But 509 and 167 are ridiculous. Everything else in the roads package is reasonable, even if I wouldn’t favor it. But those two projects are just stupid.

      2. The SR-167 extension proposal has been around and on hold ever since I can remember (I grew up in South Sound). If 30+ years of languishing in limbo hasn’t killed the extension, I have no clue what can.

    2. I doubt there will be any line item vetoes. This is a compromise package from the leadership, and it is the worse kind of political sausage you can imagine. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mind a little rat in my sausage, but this is mostly rat. The 509/167 proposal is terrible. It isn’t a little thing, but makes up a huge part of the budget.

      But Inslee helped make it, so he can’t change the recipe. So we are pretty much stuck with everything or nothing. We definitely take a risk if this is shot down. We lose — as you mentioned — a fair amount of good stuff. There isn’t a lot of good stuff (it makes up a small part of the budget) but it is significant.

      Meanwhile, we lose the ability to approve more taxes to pay for more good stuff. That obviously complicated things. We could end up with a lot of very bad road projects and then, if the voters don’t like what Sound Transit proposes, we get very little for transit.

      I’ve been on the fence with this thing for a long time, but I now feel strongly that it should be rejected. Or, at the very least, be put up for a vote. This might mean that folks struggle for a while, but in the long run, I think we will be better off.

      1. +1 RossB. The ST3 authorization leaves a really bad taste in my mouth, and makes me wonder whether Seattle should look into going it alone. The roads package does basically nothing for Seattle; any mobility fixes would be paid for by us anyways via ST3 or some other mechanism.

        At this point, I think WSDOT is a net negative for Seattle. We’ve lost our bus lanes along a majorly congested part of SR99 to support their tunnel pipedream, and the Montlake crossing is another disaster under their control. Even something simple like HOV 3+ along I-5 is beyond them. Anything that keeps propping them up is going to get a no vote from me.

      2. @Charles B,

        We’ve already lost the lanes. The state took the lanes south of Galer so they could store equipment and supplies rather than let Metro run buses.

  10. I wonder when the state will stop [inappropriate language] so eagerly. It’s getting more than a tad obscene… Exactly how many more bottomless pits of wasteful highway spending does this state need?

      1. Oh my, that requires a lot of flexibility.

        [Wow, these comments are beginning to look The Stranger’s :)]

  11. Cascadian alluded to how much exurban and rural Washington voters hate Seattle (“anti-urban Democratic districts that hate Seattle”). But why? Do not the tax revenues from Seattle and its immediate suburbs pretty much subsidize the rest of the state??? I’m pretty sure that without Seattle tax revenues thanks to big employers like Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Russell, and the high-salary jobs that they support, WA would have a much lower standard of living as a whole, and potentially a higher tax rate for lower wage workers just to keep roads and utilities up-to-date. I hear this a lot in the South Sound, what a terrible and over-rated place Seattle is and I really don’t get it. Jealousy, perhaps? And I notice how these are the same people who haven’t visited Seattle in a decade or two, and who enjoy things like greasy low-quality fast food, lawn work, and big trucks (not because they are useful for work, but simply because they are big).

    1. There’s an urban/rural political divide in every corner of this country. This is nothing new.

      1. Washington is one of many states where it shouldn’t matter, because the rural voters are *vastly* outnumbered. The real problem is the suburbs.

        In New York, there are not enough rural voters to matter (even upstate is mostly cities, big, old cities), and even the suburbs aren’t enough to keep Republicans going, but a toxic combination of gerrymandering, malapportionment, and traitorous sellouts who run as Democrats and govern as Republicans, have kept Republicans in power. You’re watching some of the same dynamic play out in Washington.

    2. They’re in denial about the subsidies. Demonizing cities goes back to the colonial era. Jefferson, Thoreau, etc. In the 19th century there was some justification because coal-belching factories made people sick. That coincided with the religious view that cities are dens of sin and atheism. In Europe walled cities were the people’s defense against enemy kings and highwaymen, so they love their cities and centralized welfare states. In the US cities were more seen as places to escape, and that has led to a lot of things including low-density suburbs and exurbs. In the 1980s the majority of Americans finally lived in suburbs, and now there’s a sense that subsidizing the suburbs is right because most Americans (voters, taxpayers) live in them. But the subsidies are unacknowledged; they’re just swept into “America has a better way of life than Europe because the majority live in suburbs.” And that makes most of the Legislature hostile to urban interests.

      Also, that part about cities being dens of sin feeds right into cities being profligate free-spenders, so the must be plenty of fat to cut. Part of that, as I just read, is that by moving outside the central city’s boundaries, people escaped the responsibility of paying taxes for the poor’s health/education/housing: now only the remaining city residents do that. So not only are suburbanites getting subsidies, but they’re avoiding responsibilities. But they won’t acknowledge they’re doing so; instead they say the cities are profligate and if they’d only elect R’s and cut social programs and regulations then everything would be better.

    3. I think you missed a few stereotypes in your incoherent rant. Maybe some more substance next time?

  12. The large cities and counties in Washington need to either gain more autonomy, or get an initiative proposed and passed that limited the amount counties could receive in excess of the tax receipts they raise. Particularly in the areas of roads, city subsidies, and infrastructure. Exceptions could require a 60% super majority.

  13. I’m glad such a deal with moving money from transit to the general funds didn’t happen here.

    However, we down here in Oregon didn’t wind up with a transportation deal at all this legislative session, and keep in mind Oregon only has an official legislative session every two years.

    So, just be glad you don’t have things worse.

    “The governor called me last night and we spoke, and I made the decision this morning we could not get to the top of the mountain” – Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.

  14. We always wondered how the state was going to get Seattle to pay for Bertha’s cost overruns. Looks like we now know.

  15. The legislature passed the bill.

    A last-minute amendment by Rep. Farrell sends the $500 million tax on ST to a special “Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account” earmarked to be spent on “educational services” in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties only. I still think this tax is a bad precedent, but with this change, it’s now no longer a poison pill.

    1. One of the same troubled souls who spoke against a referendum clause.

      I would prefer we not transfer money from mass transit to education, rather transfer – if we must – mass transit to mass transit grants, but oh well.

      [comment policy complaint – OT]

  16. I’m going to say because we are in very sensitive & polite company with a STB comment policy I just violated on another thread being our resident hothead and apologizing without qualification let me just say in the most neutral way possible that I think we need to reassess in the transit community who our real friends are and aren’t in the state legislature.

    Allowing a massive highway tax hike with a supposed ally of transit speaking against the referendum clause is arguably not being a friend of transit.

    I’m sure the STB community can get the names of those troubled souls and not endorse them next year as a warning if we have to campaign for transit taxes, road advocates get to campaign for gas taxes.

    I’m also hopeful we find out who the real friends of STB are in the next seven (7) days.

    I will stop there.

  17. Voting “No” on ST3 will be such a ridiculously easy decision. Looking forward to it.

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