The Federal Way City Council voted 5-2 to lend their support to Proposition 1, the April 22 ballot proposal aimed at maintaining current levels of Metro Transit service. The proposal would also attempt to tackle county-wide road issues.
In total, the proposal would increase King County residents car tabs to $60 ($40 for “low-income” residents) and add “one penny (in sales tax) to every $10 spent” in the county. Proponents for and against the measure made their voices heard during the Council’s meeting on Tuesday, with oppenent Will Knedlik leading off the arguments.
“This Council must oppose Proposition 1, a $1.5 billion tax increase through two highly regressive taxes on motors and on the sales of goods and services,” said Knedlik. “Because terrible existing transit unfairness for Federal Way residents would be made worse by the 1,500 percent tax increase on drivers and boaters and the other owners of a wide variety of vehicles. (It also will impose a) very aggressive tax on goods and services to take another $465 million from taxpayers over the same decade.”
Knedlik said that Federal Way should oppose the proposition because the current system as is essentially acts as a wealth-redistribution scheme from outlying parts of King County to Seattle.
“Metro Transit (is) being a terrible parent, who abuses South and East King County’s transit taxpayers, in order to transfer our taxes to Seattle residents, as it always does as the favored child,” he said. “(It’s) an indisputable fact that King County is divided into three unequal classes of citizens … The preferred citizens of the first class live in Seattle and receive 63 percent of transit services and pay 35 percent of transit taxes and are getting nearly $2 of transit services for every dollar of taxes they pay.”
Knedlik continued to the analogy, saying South King County and Federal Way would be the “second” class, with citizens paying 30 percent of taxes but only receiving 20 percent of the service. Finally, Knedlik, who lives in Kirkland, said that East King County gets the shortest straw of all, with residents there paying 35 percent of the taxes but only receiving 17 percent of the services.
“What you’re being asked to do tonight is make this worse. Your support for Proposition 1 would condemn Federal Way for at least a decade to being second class citizens,” he said. “But it will get worse if you look at the documents that have been presented by King County, you will see that after six years, even with a $1.5 billion tax increase, they will run out of money and have to cut back services again. You’ll be right back to where you are now, where they take it out of Federal Way and East King County and give it to Seattle.”
The official position in favor of the measure was provided by April Putney, campaign director for Move King County Now, saying the situation is fairly dire if Proposition 1 does not pass.
“Right now, King County should be adding 15 percent bus service just to meet our current demand, most of that down here in South King County. Unfortunately, instead, we’re looking at 17 percent cuts to our bus service … We’ve worked for six years trying to get the state to take comprehensive action and pass a state-wide package to address both our local needs and also critical investments … Unfortunately, the state has failed to act. Partisan gridlock has not stopped the county from acting. The County Council voted unanimously to put Proposition 1 before our voters because they agree we need to act now and make sure we protect our quality of life.”
Putney noted that if Proposition 1 is not passed, King County will have to follow the leads of Pierce and Snohomish counties, where bus services have been reduced by 43 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
The initial motion the Council considered was to oppose Proposition 1, introduced by Councilmember Bob Celski and seconded by Dini Duclos. For both, the issue came down to Metro asking people who don’t use their services to essentially pay for them.
“I’d like to see Metro increase the fares on the buses. We’re supporting people to ride the buses back and forth,” said Duclos, “but I’ve not seen any attempt to cut costs by Metro. Show me that you’ve done some cost cutting. We did this as a city, we cut staff, made staff take double positions to get things done.”
“My main concern is it imposes an additional burden on many citizens who will never use the bus services,” Celski said. “The burden, for a family of two with two vehicles, will be about $130 (a year). This burden extends for 10 years, so that same family will pay $1,300 for the privilege of driving. My opinion is that Metro should go back and look at this again and impose a higher fee for the people who use the actual bus services.”
Celski and Duclos’s motion was voted down, 5-2. The remainder of the Council cautioned that the failure of Proposition 1 likely means more harm to Federal Way residents who are already having a difficult time.
“My concern is … that the people who utilize it but can’t afford to even drive a car, are going to be the ones who are impacted because they can’t get to work, to child care, and students may not even be able to get to school,” said Councilmember Lydia Assefa-Dawson.
“One thing I want to mention is that jobs are being affected by this,” said Councilmember Martin Moore. “If we don’t support this … 500 drivers could lose their jobs potentially, and those are jobs that are really important. Not only that, but we have an estimate that 400,000 people use this countywide. Those are lives, those are families, those are kids being impacted by this.”
Councilmember Susan Honda said she was torn on this, but said she felt it was most important to try and keep the service levels that Federal Way residents already experience.
“I don’t want to see increased taxes, but I also don’t want to see people not have a way to get around,” she said. “I don’t know that there’s a good answer to this. We need bus service, good bus service, and I’m not even sure we have good bus service in this area, but what we have is too important to give up.”
To learn more, visit www.kingcounty.gov.