There will be a Seattle solution for saving Metro — and it
will probably look nearly identical looks very similar to Proposition 1, the county-wide car tab and sales tax hike that was soundly defeated by Eastside voters in April.
UPDATE: Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday that he will send a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax hike before Seattle voters in November to generate at least $45 million a year to save Seattle Metro services. Murray announced his plan alongside council members and King County officials, saying the proposed 8% boost to Metro’s budget was not a Seattle takeover of the regional transit authority.
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said the City Council would develop the proposistion over the summer, which will include language that ensures the city funding for Metro will only go towards Seattle bus lines. A regional partner plan would add an additional $3 million to keep some suburban routes open if municipalities step forward to match the city’s funding.
Murray said the tax hikes would be phased out once a stable funding source was developed. In the meantime Murray said he would use SDOT funds to preserve night owl services when planned Metro cuts go into effect in September.
“When you are using a regressive tax for a progressive purpose, when you are using a transfer of wealth to help those who most need transit, it is not regressive,” Murray said.
Over 66% of Seattle voters approved Proposition 1 and nearly 80% of voters in Capitol Hill’s 43rd legislative district approved the measure, which included road funding that Murray’s plan leaves out. Standing with Murray to support his plan, Sen. Jaime Pedersen said voters needed to elect more senate Democrats in November in order to ensure a state transportation package gets passed in 2015.
Murray did not propose any additional fare hikes as part of his funding plan as Metro fares are scheduled to increase 25 cents across the board in March. Metro fares have nearly doubled since 2008.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said at a Monday press conference that he was committed to taking some action, however incomplete, at the county level after voters struck down his car tab and sales tax plan last month. The plan allows municipalities facing Metro cuts to fully fund services through “community mobility grants.” Constantine said he wanted to provide the “bridge” funding option to cities that were willing and able to pay for their own services.
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Original Report: Mayor Ed Murray appears poised to take Constantine up on his offer. The mayor’s office has scheduled a Tuesday morning “Seattle transit funding proposal announcement” where it is expected Murray will outline a plan to allow Seattle voters an opportunity to approve the new fees and tax to support the city’s Metro service.
Over the past week, Murray and other officials had been hinting that his plan would essentially be a Seattle-only version of the plan suburban and rural King County voters shot down in April. Proposition 1 proposed a $60 car tab fee and .1% sales tax increase.
Following the vote, Murray said he opposed an early plan for a grassroots, go-it-alone initiative, dismissing it as a “lone ranger” approach that unfairly dipped into the city’s overused property tax reservoir.
For Constantine, the mobility grants are an acknowledged stop-gap measure. “Doing nothing while we wait on Olympia remains intolerable,” Constantine said Monday. “The sooner a city steps up the sooner we can prevent the second or third or fourth round of cuts.”
Constantine said it would take around six months for the funding to be put in place once a city decided to back its own services meaning some cutbacks will likely still take place on Metro’s Seattle routes. Constantine also called for a peer review of Metro’s operating costs and independent audit of Metro’s books.
In late 2013, CHS reported on the slate of cuts being proposed for Metro routes including changes like a truncated 12 on Capitol Hill. “With the expiration of the temporary, two-year $20 Congestion Reduction Charge in June and the draining of reserve funds, Metro needs an estimated $75 million in annual revenue to keep service on the road and purchase replacement buses or it must cut up to 17 percent of service,” a county statement on the ordinance proposal reads.
Metro says it has outlined a proposal to cancel 74 bus routes and reduce and revise another 107 routes to live within reduced revenues. Tuesday night, Metro is holding an open house about the proposed changes to its system at Union Station (401 S Jackson St) starting at 5:30. Part of the session will be devoted to recording public testimony on the cutbacks.