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King County car tab fee will pass without public vote

King County Metro stands to lose more than 600,000 service hours (17 percent of total service) during 2012 and 2013 if a proposed car tab fee increase does not pass. - File photo
King County Metro stands to lose more than 600,000 service hours (17 percent of total service) during 2012 and 2013 if a proposed car tab fee increase does not pass.
— image credit: File photo

From staff reports:

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Friday that a supermajority of the King County Council has been reached to enact a two-year $20 Congestion Reduction Charge — and avert a 17 percent cut in bus service — starting in 2012.

The fee is expected to raise $50 million for King County Metro bus service.

With six of nine council members prepared to vote yes, the announcement signals that the proposed car tab fee no longer needs to go before voters. Council members Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert joined Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott and Julia Patterson in supporting the fee. Councilman Pete von Reichbauer, who represents the South King County area, is opposed to the fee.

“Too many elected officials often respond to budget shortages with taxes and fees,” von Reichbauer wrote in a letter to The Mirror. “The real issue is not whether our revenue is enough, but whether we can do a better job with each dollar we spend.” Von Reichbauer wrote that this proposal is flawed because “there is no clear plan other than to ask for more money from the state Legislature or federal government.”

Earlier this summer, Constantine proposed a $20 car tab fee increase for King County residents in order to, at the very least, delay the reduction of over 600,000 service hours in the transit system over the next two years. The King County Council was originally expected to vote July 25 on the proposed increase, but delayed the vote amid late negotiations.

With a simple majority of five votes (instead of six), the council could have sent the proposal to voters for approval in November.

Proponents for this fee say Metro’s current service levels are needed for a region that is becoming more reliant on public transit. Opponents of the fee feel that it’s a “band-aid” solution, and also feel the state’s voters have made their opinion known on more than one occasion when it comes to the topic of car tab fee increases.

 

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