Rep. Dick Muri
Rep. Dick Muri
Rep. Dick Muri (R – Steilacoom), has introducted a bill to triple the sales tax lid for transportation benefit districts, from 0.2% to 0.6%. HB 2816 will be getting a hearing in the House Transportation Committee Thursday at 3:30 pm. The bill faces a quick deadline of Tuesday, February 9 to pass out of committee.

In addition to a sales tax, TBDs may already impose

  • a local annual vehicle fee of up to $100 on vehicle license renewals, $50 of which may be imposed without voter approval;
  • excess property taxes, for a period of up to one year, with voter approval;
  • tolls, subject to legislative authorization if on state routes and approval by the Washington State Transportation Commission if only affecting state routes, with local voter approval;
  • transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial development, without voter approval.
  • .
    Seattle’s 2014 Proposition 1 (Move Seattle) (to fund more Seattle bus service) imposed a 0.1% sales tax and $60 vehicle license fee through the TBD mechanism.

    King County attempted to enact a 0.1% sales tax and $60 car tab earlier in 2014 through this mechanism, but voters turned it down.

    While these districts have been used for transit funding locally, there is a long list of city TBDs using them to fund a wide array of transportation projects.

    Last year’s Tacoma Proposition A imposed 0.1% of additional sales tax in Tacoma and will fund local street improvements through Tacoma’s TBD.

    The 0.3% sales tax voters in the Community Transit district passed last year was not from this mechanism, but from a special authorization contained in the ST3 authorization bill.

    31 Replies to “Republican Bill Proposes to Triple Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax Ceiling”

    1. Seattle Transportation Benefit District ≠ Move Seattle
      Thanks to the completely confusing system of numbering propositions… both were “Proposition 1” in different elections.

    2. Really, there shouldn’t be a cap at all. If a local gov’t wants to vote themselves a higher tax, let them.

      1. I dunno… States (this one included) tend to get called in to bail out municipalities or utility districts that become financially insolvent. Especially those where whatever it is becomes a life safety issue. As a result there is a vested interest in providing some type of check against irrational exuberance, where people vastly under-estimate costs or over estimate tax revenue etc…

        1. That might be true generally, but in the case of King County we’re bailing the rest of the state out, and not allowed to tax ourselves for the privilege.

        2. Kyle, your argument might make sense if we were talking about spending limits, but this is about taxing limits. And with the nature of these districts, they can’t spend money they don’t have, so if they under-estimate costs, they have to do less than originally planned (such as ST 1)

        3. That might be true generally, but in the case of King County we’re bailing the rest of the state out, and not allowed to tax ourselves for the privilege

          Not true today and certainly not true historically. Seattle Transit was bailed out by the creation of Metro. Originally Metro was formed to clean up sewage dumped into Lake Washington but it was expanded to include the waste Seattle Transit pooped out. Eastern Washington has a legitimate beef. But transit advocates in Seattle couldn’t care less. The overwhelming opinion is they should all just move to a real city that is “sustainable”. And of course all buses in Seattle run on moonbeams and food is provided by urban chickens. And if the garbage is hauled off to Oregon on trains then that too is a sustainable planet.

        4. Bernie,

          You miss my point. Seattle Transit was absorbed by Metro (a local agency), which was absorbed by King County (a local agency). Sound Transit bailed itself out by turning around its management. At no point was the state involved in bailing out any of our transit agencies. Meanwhile, we send billions of tax dollars to subsidize the rest of the state.

          Now, don’t get me wrong, this is part of living in society. But living in society means being thankful. It’s nice to see some Republicans like Mr. Muri make an attempt, but too few of them even come that far.

        5. we [King County] send billions of tax dollars to subsidize the rest of the state.

          That is patently false, especially when it comes to roads. I would on principle agree that an area should be allowed to tax it’s self as much as it wants. But it’s not that simple. A rich area like say Bellevue can vote to tax it’s self to fund schools. The rest of the State be damned; we ain’t got no stinking school funding problem so screw Spokane; they don’t vote Democrat anyway.

        6. Bernie,

          No, Eastern Washington does not “have a legitimate beef”, unless by “legitimate beef” you mean that they’re dissatisfied with being subsidized by Puget Sound at only the 50% level and would prefer that those lazy libruls in King and SnoHoCo just pay for every damn thing their counties do so that they wouldn’t have to pay any taxes at all.

        7. No, Eastern Washington does not “have a legitimate beef”

          I’ve posted links to the actual numbers. What would be interesting to see is just which districts are getting the most public assistance and whether they lean Democrat or Republican.

        8. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is part of living in society. But living in society means being thankful.

          Seattle and the Eastside subsidize other areas because they’re richer. It’s not really in human nature to be thankful for your dependency on the taxes paid by richer people. Witness how the 1% are treated in most political rhetoric, although they pay a gargantuan share of federal taxes.

        9. Donde, you can very much spend money you don’t have, it’s called bonds. While not usually legally required the state knows they will receive a tremendous amount of pressure and in some cases are indeed legally obligated to bail out these agencies if they fail to meet their debt obligations. Besides the obvious partisan political issues part of restricting what they can raise is to ensure that they do not overstep an areas true financial capabilities and retain a reserve capacity, but most importantly it limits the states obligation to something they can manage depending on what their liability is.

          And that’s before we even take into account the possibility of a local agency starting a project that must be finished that then runs into problems that the state or a larger agency must pay to finish. Or the inverse of that as we saw with the SR-99 tunnel.

        10. The state’s ostensible justification for local tax ceilings is to prevent one entity (a county, city, or benefit district) from enacting a runaway tax that takes all the revenue taxpayers are willing to pay and squeezes out the other entities. Each entity focuses on its parochial interests and projects (“I’m a hammer social service so everything is a nail”), and the state’s job is to orchestrate their overlapping impacts on any one person or area.

          That overseeing authority could be devolved to the counties, I suppose. E.g., guarantee the state a minimum tax capacity and allow unlimited taxes beyond that.

          “Eastern Washington has a legitimate beef. But transit advocates in Seattle couldn’t care less. The overwhelming opinion is they should all just move to a real city that is “sustainable”. And of course all buses in Seattle run on moonbeams and food is provided by urban chickens.”

          Nice try but European cities manage to have rural areas with transit. The trick is to have train stations in the town centers with all-day service, even if it’s every 2-4 hours. Or the bus equivalent if you prefer rubber wheels on shared asphalt. And put businesses within a walkable distance of those town centers. Farms and industrial plants need to be big, and some people want an isolated house. But many businesses don’t need excessively out-of the way, cul-de-sac locations with car-dependent driveways.

          The changes that would be needed in Eastern Washington aren’t that large, we just need to stop going the wrong direction (i.e., sprawl). When I took Greyhound through the Tri-Cities to Denver, I saw a Gold’s Gym right at the edge of town and a little separated. My first thought was, “There’s one gym I could go to if I lived here.” My second thought was, “I don’t want to have to get a car or bike to the edge of town every day just to get to the gym, and be depressed at all the nuisance emptiness I’m going through.”

        11. Ah, the “those people” card. I thought somebody would play it. Frankly, I’m a little surprised it was you.

          You can zero in on one specific element of spending and find anomalies to support any point. However, the only valid comparison is total taxes sent to Olympia from a given county versus state-funded spending in that county. Anything else is either absent-minded professorial hand-waving or outright right-wing liars poker.

          Now by “Method 2” which includes state employee salaries, Thurston County is by far the biggest welfare queen in the State. However, whether you agree with the method or not, it’s standard issue state government to put most of the state’s administrative activities in the capitol city.

          If Eastern Washington could become a state without two Senators, I’m sure few folks west of the Cascades would be sad to see it go. But of course it would get two Senators, and that would make the “small states with 20% of the voters in the country can stymie any project that the 80% in other states want” problem in the Senate that much worse.

          Grant that the small states aren’t so cookie-cutter that they ever do actually vote in the same way on any issue that matters.

        12. Nice try but European cities manage to have rural areas with transit. The trick is to have train stations in the town centers

          Right, so if we just hit the town centers passenger rail from Missoula to Billings (the two largest cities in Montana) would be “just like Europe”. Got it. Or maybe you were thinking Spokane to the Tri Cities? Dunno, where exactly are these rural areas that you think passenger rail needs to be built?

        13. You can zero in on one specific element of spending and find anomalies to support any point. However, the only valid comparison is total taxes sent to Olympia from a given county versus state-funded spending in that county. Anything else is either absent-minded professorial hand-waving or outright right-wing liars poker.

          We’re talking about transportation but why look at say the gas tax and the money spent on roads when you can pull in DSHS spending (the worst run agency in the State) and State mandated education spending.

          Ah, the “those people” card.

          Almost desperate enough play the “Hitler card” hey? I’m simply asking if the districts receiving the welfare checks that tip the balance of funds flowing to/from eastern Washington districts are voting Democrat or Republican since the Seattle Liberal spin is “all those Republicans in eastern Washington are actually living high on the hog off hard earned wages earned by baristas in Seattle.”

          If Eastern Washington could become a state without two Senators, I’m sure few folks west of the Cascades would be sad to see it go.

          Pretty sure there more than a few Cougars that would disagree (WSU 76-78, UW 78-80). By far Washington’s leading export is airplanes (sorry, PACAR isn’t building trains for the world). You might want to consider the rest of the top 10 before you decide to secede and form the Independent Socialist Republic of Seattle.

    3. It’s good to see Republicans actually practicing what they preach about local government control, even if it’s about things they don’t like (that is, higher taxes and more transit)

    4. Figures on which way our State’s revenue flows should be pretty easy to get hold of. Let’s see them. Though I know a lot of East-of-the-Mountains perpetual irritation over an internal conflict.

      Do they owe us money for accepting the thousands of young refugees who constantly flee here? Or helpless rage over the direction in which every escaping kid in this State runs away!

      Just a thought.

      Mark

    5. transportation impact fees on commercial and industrial development, without voter approval.

      Wow, you mean like Wright Runstad might actually have to pay even just a little bit toward the billions in transit spending that allowed them to turn a warehouse into multistory housing and commercial development. I thought all that was paid for through political contributions.

    6. Yes, by all means, let’s keep piling onto the sales tax, raising it every time a great idea comes along. After a few more years, we can maybe get it up to 12 or 13 percent. Washington is already branded as the state with *the* most regressive state/local tax structure. Might as well go for broke and put us in a league of our own.

      1. I really wish this were something like property tax or income(!) tax, but at least funding transit sort of kind of makes up for the regressive nature of the tax. If transit gets useful enough, then people can start giving up cars, which are even more regressive than the tax.

        1. And if people get poor enough, that will also force them out of their cars. Sorry, but I’m just not buying into this commitment to regressive taxation. No matter how wonderful are the things its funding; at the very least, the increases have to stop.

        2. If we want to talk about impacts on the poor, we have to talk about the housing crisis. Seattle has zoned itself into a crisis, for which even access to transportation and the sales tax rate are distant seconds in impact.

        3. How will poor people get around without transit? The failed MVET for Metro that some people said was too much of a burden on the poor, was the same annual cost as one or two tanks of gas. How do they buy the other twelve or twenty-four tanks a year? What about the car’s maintenance cost and insurance? If we can build a transit network that allow more poor people to not have cars, that’s a really huge financial benefit for them.

        4. It’s not necessarily “funding transit”. It can be used to fund transit, but most TBD’s are at least as much for roads and highways.

      1. Steilacoom probably wants / needs to do something expensive with the ferry terminal.

        Also, keep in mind that this could just as easily go to roads as transit.

      2. In most of the state TBDs are a tool for road improvements. It allows cities to take care of their problems without begging to the state.

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