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King County proposes April ballot measure for Metro funding
King County Executive Dow Constantine, along with four King County Council members and other regional officials, announced a proposal to put a local funding measure for King County Metro on the April ballot.
The proposal also includes a scheduled fare increase and a first-ever reduced fare for riders of limited means.
Under state law, the King County Council has the option of enacting an ordinance that would create a “transportation benefit district” with taxing authority. The maximum amount that the new taxing authority entity could charge King County residents is $100 in an annual vehicle fee. The district could also hike the sales tax temporarily, with the upper limit on that taxing ability being two-tenths of a cent.
Constantine and the Council note that the proposal they put forward on Jan. 14 would ask for a $60 annual vehicle fee, which is anticipated to raise $80 million in revenues. The temporary sales tax set forth in the proposal would be for one-tenth of a cent, and raise an estimated $50 million a year. As it sits right now, that increase in the sales tax would expire after 10 years.
The county anticipates these measures would be an adequate replacement for funding they had hoped to get from Olympia in recent years. In 2011, a temporary car tab fee increase was approved by the Council as a stopgap for Metro funding issues.
The current proposal would have approximately 60 percent of the funds go directly to Metro for service needs, while 40 percent would be used towards roads and transportation infrastructure in the county.
Constantine was emphatic that this action was needed for the county and region’s transportation future.
“King County has stepped up to every challenge set before us. We’ve done everything within our means to keep people moving,” he said in a statement. “We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option. We must move forward on our own to save Metro bus service.”
The leaders who gathered with Constantine on Jan. 14 also emphasized that the time to act at the local level is now.
“We have done everything possible to convince our state Legislature to pass a transportation package and they have failed to act,” said Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who also chairs the city’s Transportation Committee. “We, as local leaders, are united in preventing Metro bus service cuts, and in preventing further deterioration of our roads and bridges. We must act now to have the transit service and transportation system that is critical to our region’s prosperity and livability.”
Representatives of Metro were in Federal Way last November, kicking off a round of community meetings throughout the county to discuss the transit service’s financial troubles. According to Metro, if the funding is not found and the agency is forced to cut the services, it would be the “loss of an unprecedented 14 million rides annually, and would revert Metro’s service to levels not seen since 1997.”
Metro warns that this reduction would come as ridership nears an all-time high again that was first seen in 2008. Metro provides about 400,000 rides a day, according to the transit agency.
In Federal Way, according to information provided by Metro, up to four routes could be completely eliminated, and a number of others would be revised.