Governor Inslee at U-Link Opening. Photo by Joshua Trujillo, seattlepi.com.

SEATTLE SUBWAY

Democrats in the Washington State House have passed a bill out of committee that will cut $2.3 billion dollars from the voter approved Sound Transit 3 (ST3) package. Following a well worn Democratic strategy of caving to the slightest pressure from the right, this signals that Democrats intend to pass the bill out of the State House. The bill will then be sent to the Senate where it will be further degraded (the Senate version cuts $6 Billion in transit) and then sent to the Governor.

In passing this bill, Democrats seem to give in to magical thinking:  “While this would reduce a stream of revenue on which Sound Transit depends for future expansions, Democrats said it won’t impair the transit agency’s ability to carry out the $54 billion worth of projects in the Sound Transit 3 plan as promised.”  This is an entirely unsupported statement.  Overriding the will of the voters and cutting transit funding will, in 100% of cases, lead to less transit and to transit built more slowly.

House Democrats now appear to be a lost cause.  Let Governor Jay Inslee know that this attempt to override voters is entirely unacceptable. Puget Sound voters were clear in their support of transit expansion. Further, making changes after the vote is an act of bad faith in regards to the state transportation bill passed in 2015. ST3 funding was a hard fought win for the Puget Sound Region in that negotiation – which also funds billions in highway expansion without any public vote.

Transit has a sad history in this state and tends to be the focus of constant second guessing and lack of investment. Washington is dead last in transit funding at the state level and has the most regressive taxes in the country.

Here the issues intersect:  The most progressive funding source in our state is being attacked in an effort to cut transit funding.

At the same time Democrats in Olympia are pushing cuts to local funding, Trump and Republicans are pushing for billions of dollars of cuts to ST2 and ST3 projects at the Federal level.

Governor Inslee:  This is an opportunity to be on the right side of history and support a better, more environmentally responsible future for our state.  Please veto this bill.

Contact Governor Inslee here and let him know you support a veto by emailing him, faxing him at 360-753-4110, or calling his office at 360-902-4111.

59 Replies to “Action Alert: Ask Governor Inslee to Veto Transit Cuts”

  1. Washington state voters NEVER would have supported ST3 if ST3 would have been HONEST about what they were going to do to the voters. Using decimal point language to show us how much our car tabs would increase was just DISHONEST. Why didn’t ST3 just say our tabs would jump 3 to 4 times the amount we now pay, then use the MSRP to Jack it even higher. MSRP is a standard that even the auto industry DOES NOT use. My grandchildren won’t even see the completion of ST3. The whole ST3 program is, and will always be an IMMORAL and DISHONEST system. A system that will be OUTDATED, UNDERUSED, and OBSOLETE before it will ever carry its first passenger.

    1. Washington state voters NEVER would have supported ST3 if ST3 would have been HONEST about what they were going to do to the voters.

      Sound Transit literally put a calculator on their web site.

      Can we please dispense with the canard that voters in the Sound Transit district were duped? It is insulting—to all voters, regardless of how they voted—and wrong and completely misses that the State Legislature, including Steve O’Ban, voted yes on the bill that set up the funding mechanism that they are now decrying.

      To go against what 54% of voters said is wrong. Sound Transit passed, just like many levies have done before.

    2. @ J. Thorne

      Lot of shouting, dude.

      So wait. When the ballot said the rate would go from 0.3% to 1.1%, you didn’t expect to see an 11/3 increase?

      What, pray tell, did you expect?

      BTW, every formula uses the MSRP; they just apply different depreciation rates against it.

      1. This is what kills me. They were already paying on the depreciation schedule.

        The Seattle Times is a menace. I’ll dance on its grave when it dies.

    3. Sound Transit most certainly was up front about the rise in cost.
      The Seattle Times even had a simple explanation of how to calculate it using the formula.

      What you seem to be saying is that those who read and understood the formula and voted Yes on ST3, that their decision should be overturned, because…

      You don’t like it?

      1. The Seattle Times even explicitly called out this fact in the July 2016 .

        “To complicate matters, the official “value” for tax purposes is usually higher than what you might get by selling your car, or find in the Kelley Blue Book. Your car depreciates faster in real life than it does in the Legislature. That disparity is a vestige of the 1990s, when the state inflated its car-depreciation charts to rake in more dollars for ferries and revenue sharing with bus agencies, cities and counties.”

        Yet somehow they were duped.

      1. The SHOUTING makes it very CLEAR that he knows what he’s talking about, that he’s a SMART individual capable of INDEPENDENT and rational THINKING and totally isn’t regurgitating the GARBAGE he reads in the Times editorial section or hears on the Dori Monson show.

        Oh and that he likely voted for Trump.

    4. I remember people like you (perhaps you were even one of them) screaming the same things about ST1 back in 1996. That it would be outdated, underused, and obsolete before it even carried a single passenger. Instead of the sky-is-falling hyperbole offered by you, the reality is a system that is so needed and utilized, with people clambering for more, that most days when I ride it to work I cannot get a seat due to its limited capacity with the current train length.

    5. To be fair, most people did not use the calculator or read the text of ST3. Most people (at best) probably saw 0.8% of vehicle value (which is what the ST3 site states). So they figured that they just bought their 5 year old car for $10k and so the tax should be $80. Instead, they get a bill for $120. Doesn’t surprise me that people are annoyed.

      I honestly don’t know whether it would be better long term to drop the valuations or not. At this point it’s a political calculation.

      1. ” …most people did not use the calculator or read the text of ST3. Most people …

        How do you know that?

        Were you a YES voter that didn’t and is now having buyer’s remorse?

        If you are, then if you think there are enough ill educated voters like you, call for a revote.

        If you voted NO, then all you are saying is that you think the majority are ill educated, and you want to override them because you don’t respect their intelligence.

      2. I can say that with relative confidence because most people are not going to spend hours digging through websites to figure everything out. They’re going to see that ST3 is about building LRT between A and B and that we’re paying for it by taxing (in part) vehicle values. They may look at the ST3 website or read what their local newspaper has to say, but they’re not going to read all the fine print. I’m guessing that most people don’t even know the MSRP of their car without looking it up. And by “value”, most people take that to be the fair market value, not a made up number by the government.

        I really don’t care about this whole issue. The extra taxes are not that large. My two simple points are that I can see why some people (especially those opposed to transit) are going to be annoyed and that changing the schedule is a political decision with respect to the backlash on ST.

      3. So a made up number by the collection of every person buying or selling cars, possibly as collected by the Kelley Blue Book corporation, is better than a made up number by the government?

        The Kelley company doesn’t offer predictions. To forecast future market value requires the witchcraft pseudo-science called economics and at best gets you a probabilistic range of values using statistics.
        The latter at least is predictable; it follows a simple formula that you can calculate with simple arithmetic, then use make concrete plans and budgets.

    6. Hey there Elon, whassup? You tryin’ to sell some vacuum tube transport to Seattle? You know there’s that “it can’t stop at intermediate stations” thingy you haven’t worked out.

      ‘Course, people are complaining about the number of stations inbound from their’s, so maybe each station should have its own pair of tubes?

  2. This has already been explained to death on this page in previous (recent) articles. Sound Transit was bound by rules and obligations set up BY THE LEGISLATURE regarding the car tabs.
    ST explained the bill, we voted on it, it passed — end of story for the funding’s legitimacy as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Interesting question: If Inslee vetoes the bill, will he lose his chances for reelection? Will voters see him as, “The one who kept my car tabs high”?

    This is kind of important because politicians are motivated by their reelection chances. And that’s probably why the House passed this bill in the first place, because nobody except a few transit fans likes high car tabs.

    1. I sense he has higher aspirations than to continue as governor for too long. I’m thinking he sees himself running for president or getting a cabinet position.

      1. We’ve only had one 3 term governor. Inslee will be encouraged to do something else come 2020. If for no other reason than people like Dow Constantine and Bob Ferguson want their shot at the Governor’s mansion.

  4. Just to clarify, the House is considering HB 2201 which has a direct revenue impact of $780M and an overall cost of $2.3B as a result of higher borrowing costs, not $6B as the alert indicates. The House Transportation Committee has voted it out of committee and it is under consideration by the House. There is a long way to go before the bill reaches the Governor’s desk because this bill differs significantly from what was passed by the Senate. That said, the impact to ST finances is unacceptable. We proposed changes to reduce the impact on ST but it looks like the bill will move forward without changes. Transportation Choices Coalition is opposing this bill in its current form. More to come.

      1. These are Sound Transit’s estimates of what it will cost to borrow the lost $780M over time. I’m assuming this includes debt servicing at higher interest rate. I’m sure ST can provide a more detailed explanation of what goes into that estimate.

      2. Suppose they borrowed $780 million in equal tranches over 10 years, to match the timing of the MVET revenues between now and 2028. They would have to make no principal payments at all, and pay 10% interest, to generate an interest bill large enough to get us to $2.3 billion in total cost through 2041.

        Stretch all the payments over 30 years from the respective borrowing dates, and it’s still 6.5%. That means summing interest expenses out through 2058, which I thought was not how we do this math? Isn’t everything calculated through 2041 only?

        It seems off. I may well be missing something. To be helpful, the number has to be defensible.

    1. Thanks for the clarification, Shefali – we initially missed the difference between the Dem (ST MVET) and Republican (ST1&ST3 MVET) bills.

      We presume Senate Republicans will do their best to make it worse on the way to Inslee – so we’ll update the post to show a range.

      The Dem bill also appears to codify things that don’t seem possible, so we’re not sure what to make of that.

  5. Time to fight fire with fire. if this passes, Seattle Subway should get signatures to use the monorail authority and get the West Side Transit Tunnel or Ballard to UW on the ballot for 2018.

      1. Dan, I’ve got to be up too early to do the research, Dan, so help me out. What’s the Authority’s definition of a monorail? Is it just rail-count?

        Mark

      2. Here’s the language:

        “Public monorail transportation facilities” means a transportation system that utilizes train cars running on a guideway, together with the necessary passenger stations, terminals, parking facilities, related facilities or other properties, and facilities necessary and appropriate for passenger and vehicular access to and from people-moving systems, not including fixed guideway light rail systems.

        RCW 35.95A.010

      3. Dan,

        That absolutely includes an automated system like SkyTrain which uses third rail. In no part of the world is that termed a “fixed guideway light rail system” [emphasis added].

        The chuckleheads in the legislature wrote the law that way specifically to derail Link, but they were too full of themselves by half. They thought they didn’t need to consult with a rail transit expert — probably thought they’d get Ebola or something. So they just created their own super-smarty pants word salad.

        And []. Hardy-har-har.

      4. I don’t think so. Will you be able to convince a judge that the meaning of “mono” excludes two rails, but includes three? It’s just a power delivery mechanism. Five minutes in Court with the WPC lawyer and a Latin dictionary and you’re toast.

      5. The legislature was inserting a provision the Seattle monorail advocates wanted, because the monorail had a wave of popularity then. The legislature itself probably didn’t care about the provision, it just wanted to make a large constituency happy. Since that time the legislature has become more Eyman-bruised and tax-adverse and transit-adverse, so it’s not as enthusiastic about either monorail or light rail as it was then. Which is why it’s going after ST with an MVET revision.

    1. It’s not going to kill ST3 completely. There will still be Ballard and West Seattle Link. So which buses would use the WSTT? Just the E?

      And using the monorail authority will not make the legislature feel punished and chastized.

      In fact, if we use the monorail authority, the legislature might just take it away.

      1. Seattle has the power and authority to use the monorail authority- what good is it if it is never used because we fear it being taken away?

      2. What makes you think we will get Ballard without cuts? They may well remove grade separation. The first version of ST3 had the Ballard line running at grade.

        Sound transit has made it pretty clear they see the spine as the top priority.

        If billions of dollars get pulled out of the budget, it’s naive to think it won’t effect light rail, no matter what the legislature says.

      3. Brendan,

        Ballard can certainly be “at-grade” north of the tunnel portal. It just needs to be “at-grade” on its own, not down the middle of 15th West. When it comes out of the tunnel portal run it behind the buildings on the north side of Elliott West, stay behind the cloverleaf for the Magnolia Bridge and then cross 15th West right next to the Magnolia Bridge ramp. Come down on the other side along the railroad tracks and run north to Dravus where there will have to be a separate bridge. But you’ve saved several tens of millions of dollars by staying off the supports, and made access to the thing easier because it’s not forty feet in the air.

      4. The Spine is over in North King. The south part was completed in ST1, and the north part will be done with Lynnwood Link. That means North King’s entire ST3 pot of money is available for non-spine projects. The second downtown tunnel is an anomaly because it does support the spine, but North King is paying only a quarter share of it or so. North King’s top priorities were West Seattle Link and Ballard Link. A reduction of 1% or 10% would not be enough to cancel those projects. It could lead to a cheaper Ballard solution, but I’m sure the tunnel will remain through SLU and Uptown because it would be insane not to, and if it reverts to surface north of there it’s not the end of the world, it’s still serving Ballard, and I assume it would be like MLK and not like the streetcars, because ST has defined light rail that way.

      5. Lynnwood Link is hardly “in the can”. Sound Transit may lose Federal grants for Lynnwood link. This no doubt means some North King money will go to complete Lynnwood Link.

        If the GOP and transit opponents can keep the PR drums beating Sound Transit may find itself in significant trouble, perhaps nearly to 2000-2002 crisis levels.

    2. Seattle should have been going it alone from day one. Seattle’s ST3 projects are frankly not very good, which is what you’d expect from a suburban transit agency.

      1. Seattle doesn’t have the money. The same legislature would have to give Seattle the tax authority, and it’s much more willing to give it to ST than Seattle. The monorail authority can raise only a billion, and it has that non-light-rail clause which may or may not be enforceable. It’s not enough to pay for even one tunnel project.

      2. I admit to not being a numbers cruncher, but you’re saying that Seattle (North King, basically, especially as Shoreline has been supportive) will raise enough money under sub-area equity to fund the projects slated for North King, but would not have the money to complete the same projects were there no ST and we had the ability (more accurately right) to fund transit under the same or similar mechanism wholly locally? That doesn’t make any sense.

        Certainly that situation doesn’t exist today as Seattle wasn’t granted any such funding mechanism, but were the slate wiped clean and Seattle allowed to do so, I can’t see where the same money more or less wouldn’t be available. As I say though, I’m no numbers person.

      3. “were the slate wiped clean and Seattle allowed to do so” – that’s the entire point Mike is making. The slate is not clean. Seattle doesn’t have another funding mechanism unless the legislature provides it.

      4. That’s understood. The point is that Seattle DOES have the money, it’s just not allowed to spend it as it sees fit. Saying that Seattle does not have the money implies that it is not affordable.

  6. Democratic control of the state house is too tenuous. Even with the Trump effect potentially moving the needle a bit more to the left, the Dems won’t risk this. Inslee won’t risk Democratic control of the house for ST. Assuming the senate doesn’t change things too much, I’d expect him to sign.

    Game, set, match to the R’s on this one

    1. Or maybe it’ll be Ballard that drops the rest of the region, that keeps voting in goons that override the will of the people?

  7. Finally owning a car with visible tab fees of $500, one solution comes to mind. If I get $42 a month automatically deducted from my credit union account, coffee bills alone will dwarf the fee into invisibility.

    But my real one-issue campaign issue is that last five years’ local economic changes are removing my remaining mobility by the day. Term “Freeway” is now an obscene lie. Between six and ten in the morning, I-5 is a long detention cell.

    Never thought it would bother my conscience so little to drive 140 miles round trip from Olympia to Angle Lake and back. Can honestly say I’m not interfering with anybody else’s travel by any mode.

    Because I really enjoy driving a two lane stop-free route that nobody else has six hours a day to spend on the two lane roads I’ll have to kill anybody who finds out where it goes.

    From direct experience with both car tabs and present regional transit reality, I think Sound Transit’s survival depends on finding the fastest way to get people moving on any transit vehicle.

    From direct experience with both car tabs and present regional transit reality, I think Sound Transit’s survival depends on finding the fastest way to get people moving on any transit vehicle, some important place in every corridor.

    Might be worth some argument over when buses get sacrificed. Because picture that keeps coming to my car-damaged joint use fixated mind is reserved right of way light rail started with buses.

    Worked last time when we started LINK with it. Maybe with footings for elevated pillars built into busway medians. Could be less of a fight than years of diamond-lane construction and seizure.

    However we do it, I think ST-3’s survival depends on getting as much right of way as we can, as real priority expense. It’s not a project taking thirty years that’s fueling the fury. It’s the thought of spending all $500 worth of those year for a seat with a terrible view.

    On the good side, thousands of stationary people Driven to Distraction will commit a lot less Distracted Driving.

    Mark

  8. Sound Transit needs to outline and publicize what would be cuts or delays would happen under this bill.

    The legislature is essentially promising a tax cut without saying what cuts would be made… to voters it looks like they get something for nothing. Later, when sound transit doesn’t have the money to build part of the light rail line, they will blame ST for cost overruns,

    ST needs to say up front what the true consequences of the bill are.

    1. We should not consider this in a vacuum. The real question is “what are the impacts of losing MVET money AND federal funds?” Both are under threat. Both equate to billions of dollars. Both equate to UNPASSING a very significant portion of ST3. Dems who support this bill are debilitating one of our region’/ biggest political wins before it gets out of the gate.

      The future will not look kindly on a loss of Sounder and light rail to places like Tacoma & Puyallup and light rail to Everett. Someday the economic driver you destroy could be your own…

    2. It’s politically risky to ST to say who would be the losers, and it would be irresponsible to based on a non-final number and provisions. ST has given the total amount. You can compare that to the project list to see what kind of impact it would have. Even choosing what to cut would put boardmembers against boardmembers, so it’s a destructive exercise if the cut is not certain yet.

    3. The bill is written to already establish what will be cut first – parking, then commuter rail, then light rail. The legislature made that decision for ST.

  9. I just called & emailed Inslee’s office, encouraging a veto.

    Here’s what I emailed:

    Hi; I live in Seattle, and am writing about HB2201, currently making its way through the legislature. If this is passed by state Senate, I would like you to veto it.
    This bill would recalculate the MVET in a way that will cut up to $6 billion from the funding for Sound Transit 3, without providing any other funding source. We fought for and voted for this levy to build transit in the Puget Sound region. Seattle is growing fast, and we are decades behind in building fast, reliable rail lines & high-speed bus routes to get people to & from their workplaces and homes. These projects would double the expected ridership from Sound Transit 2’s levels, from 350,000 riders/day to 700,000 riders per day.
    The MVET levy was authorized by the legislature as part of a deal which, in exchange for granting us the right to tax ourselves, obliged us to pay for out-of-area roads across the state. It would be an act of almost Trump-like bad faith to not honor this agreement.

    Please commit to keeping these projects fully funded, so we can build it without delay.

    Thanks,
    -jeff

    1. I also sent him an email. Thank you to STB and Seattle Subway for keeping us informed of this.

      Here’s my text if others would like inspiration:

      Dear Governor Inslee,

      I’m writing to you about the recent attempt by the Legislature to reduce the MVET funding for Sound Transit’s, thereby reducing money available for our ST3 plans. I urge you to veto this legislation and preserve all of ST3’s funding sources. ST3 passed with 54% of the vote, and the people voting for it did so with full knowledge of all of the taxes. Not only did Sound Transit provide this information on its website, it was widely publicized by news media. This is merely an attempt by the legislature to undo the transportation progress we have made in the Puget Sound region, and will result in increased congestion and environmental impact.

      Once again, I urge you to veto this legislation and preserve the will of the voters in Puget Sound.

      Thank you for your time, and your service to the state.

      Sincerely,

      Skylar Thompson

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