In an effort to buy back $45 million in Metro bus services, the Seattle City Council will be considering two competing plans on Thursday. Both would include sending a $60 vehicle licensing fee to the ballot in November.
The first plan, proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in May, is basically a local version of Proposition 1 which Eastside and rural King County voters torpedoed in April. The plan would raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee in Seattle — a plan that would likely win voter approval in November.
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.
A more progressive plan proposed by council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata seeks to replace the sales tax increase with an annual $18 employee head count tax and increasing the tax paid by commercial parking lot operators from 12.5% to 17.5%. Small businesses would be exempt from the employee tax. The combined revenue sources would generate an estimated $21 million annually, the same amount Murray’s sales tax hike would generate.
If the Transportation Benefit District board, which is comprised of all council members, approves the Licata-Sawant plan then only the $60 car tab would go to the ballot in November. The council would then vote on the employee head count tax and parking lot tax increase.
The Licata-Sawant plan would also prevent the first round of Metro cuts scheduled for Septemeber, which would scrap 30 routes, including the the 47 along Summit/Bellevue, and reduce service for 12 others
none that directly serve Capitol Hill. Licata and Sawant made a case for their proposal in a June op-ed in the Puget Sound Business Journal:
Elected officials have a responsibility to fight for progressive revenue options whenever possible. Ultimately, we must build support for measures such as taxing the super-rich and ensuring that big business pays a share commensurate with its high private profit rates.
There are no proposed Metro fare hikes as part of either funding plan as Metro fares are scheduled to increase 25 cents across the board in March. Metro fares have nearly doubled since 2008.
If council members do not take action on Thursday, another meeting is scheduled for July 17th.