Mayor rolls out new transit levy proposal alongside busy E Madison

Declaring Seattle’s “mode wars” over, Mayor Ed Murray stood along E Madison Wednesday where an $87 million “Bus Rapid Transit” system is being planned to announce his plan for a nine-year, $900 million transportation levy to help fund Seattle’s slate of planned street, sidewalk, and biking upgrades.

The levy is planned to be presented to Seattle voters on the November ballot. As currently constructed, the city estimates the Move Seattle levy would cost property owners about two times as much as the expiring Bridging the Gap levy:Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 1.18.41 PM

(Image: City of Seattle)

(Image: City of Seattle)

While the menu of projects the city is planning to improve commutes and neighborhood streets would seem an obvious inspiration for strong support for the levy, Murray said planners will begin gathering feedback on the proposal and the mayor cautioned Wednesday that success on the ballot isn’t necessarily a done deal.

“Any time you ask to raise taxes, it’s a hard sell,” Murray said.

Timeline

  • March and April 2015: SDOT will collect public feedback on the draft Transportation Levy to Move Seattle proposal

  • May 2015: After incorporating public feedback, the Mayor will submit the proposal to Seattle City Council

  • By early August 2015: The Seattle City Council will need to submit the proposal to King County for it to be on the ballot this November

You can learn more about the proposal at seattle.gov/LevytoMoveSeattle/ and provide feedback on the levy plan via this online survey. There are also three workshops planned around the city — though none on Capitol Hill:Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 1.23.36 PM

Meanwhile at Pine and Broadway, the Transit Riders Union was working the street to drum up support for the group. The union hasn't yet taken a position on the new levy proposal. (Image: CHS)

Meanwhile at Pine and Broadway, the Transit Riders Union was working the street to drum up support for the group. The union hasn’t yet taken a position on the new levy proposal. (Image: CHS)

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24 thoughts on “Mayor rolls out new transit levy proposal alongside busy E Madison

    • I’d like to see proof that rents actually go up because of levies.

      My rent is exclusively determined by:
      (1) What people are willing to pay for rentals in my neighborhood
      (2) What people are willing to pay for rentals in my neighborhood
      (3) What people are willing to pay for rentals in my neighborhood

      Last month, I just had about $7,000 in unexpected building expenses due to water problems. If I tried to raise my tenants’ rent to be $250/month above market prices to make them absorb it, I would simply lose my tenants and have no rental income.

      As a Cap Hill landlord, I think this is a fantastic levy and I will absolutely vote for it (even if it will cost me $1,000/year easily).

      I would never try to tell my tenants I think they should vote for (it’s not my business). But I certainly hope my tenants would vote for it — especially as their greatest needs often involve safe and rapid transportation without the burden of buying and maintaining another car.

      And without any unjustified fears that it would somehow increase their rent.

  1. “As currently constructed, the city estimates the Move Seattle levy would cost property owners about two times as much as the expiring Bridging the Gap levy:”

    That should help lower rents in the city. Seriously, property taxes are kind of out of control here, and are another contributor to higher rents (in addition to making owning even more painful and difficult).

    There are a few good ideas here that might be worth funding, but aren’t there any other ways to get some additional revenue?

    • This is getting ridiculous. Every single ballot has another levy for another proposal that’ll add another couple of hundred $$ to property taxes. Every single ballot. Twice a year. Damn. I’m really NOT a “I don’t want to pay any taxes, ever” Tim Eyman sort, really I’m not. But if this passes my taxes will have gone up $800 a yr in just 2 years on my very small, very average house. We just passed a transit levy, didn’t we? Yeah, I know it was for something different but what’s next? WTF.

      • Your taxes and everyone’s’ rents. Up, Up, Up. All for what? Hopeless traffic, a business portfolio consisting of bars, dry cleaners, and Subway, and cost of living based on a small percentage of tech workers. That is just a recipe for success. (sarcasm)

      • Maybe we need to start assessing at least some taxes for rental property buildings directly to the end-user (the renter) and take it out of the hands of the building owner. Then renters will see a more direct effect of all the levies they vote for thinking it won’t directly impact them much. I think there’s probably a significant % of renters who think “greedy landlords” can just absorb everything. I don’t know if that’s feasible or legal, but it’s a thought.

      • It would make more sense to just increase the sales tax if you want to share the burden, since there’s no income tax here. Imposing a tax on renters would be impossible to manage.

      • I think you’re right that many renters blithely vote for things which raise property taxes, because they think their rent will not increase much….and I suspect that is somewhat true, because there are many factors that go into rent increases. It’s different for a homeowner, who almost immediately must pay a significantly higher tax. It’s not just this new proposal…it’s only the latest of the frequent proposals which raise our taxes….it’s relentless.

        I may end up voting for this transportation package, but I’m going to take a careful look at exactly what it covers.

      • I don’t think it would be so hard to manage. It doesn’t have to apply to all rentals (perhaps only certain large buildings in certain areas), and it could be added to an electric bill, for example. The renter doesn’t pay the bill, their power gets shut off. Fast and brutal. Adding to sales taxes is very regressive and hits lower income people more heavily. A food and drink tax increase might work, though, because eating out is more optional. Especially drinking.

    • Not sure what your “out-of-control” criteria is, but the increases over the last five years have exceeded the increases over the previous 10-15. (My co-op graphed the collected taxes per year, and it was a small slope for many years, with a drastic upward trend over the last few years.) Now, you’re adding a significant levy on top of the increases that are already occurring with the skyrocketing property value increases.

      So it’s double-dipping on the backs of property owners. While it’s likely few have sympathies for us rich (hah!) owners, it’s naive to think it doesn’t impact the rental market.

  2. Oh hells no! I’m all for transit. I’m also all for government accountability. If this mayor demonstrated any resolve to challenge City unions, revamp City procurement and insist on accountability, I might be willing to give this proposal a fair hearing. It’s irresponsible and politically stupid to float something this expensive when Bertha’s a year behind schedule, without making some strong statements about how he’d shed risk to the taxpayer and demand accountability this time around.

    • Taxing fuel is regressive in the extreme, but the state needs to undo that crap from Tim Eyman and tax vehicle registration based on value, which is completely fair and non-regressive.

      My neighbor with two Porsches pays the same registration as the person driving a 92 Civic.

      • Oh, yes. Tax the rich. It’s their fault. Tax anyone who’s successful and possibly worked very hard to get there. It’s their fault. He has more money than me, that’s not fair. That guy owns property, let’s punish him. He owns his house and I can’t afford to own one, that’s not fair.

      • Need some fire for that strawman?

        A vehicle registration tax based on a vehicle’s current resale value is a fair tax, because the person with a $100K car gets more value from road improvements than the person with the $300 piece-of-shit beater. It’s the same logic behind property taxes, one of the few non-regressive taxes that the rich are unable to dodge through various tax loopholes created specifically for the rich to reduce their tax burden.

        Or they both get equal value, in that the pothole that blows out the Porsche’s $1000 tire is less of a burden than the tire blowing out on the guy who has a $300 car, but the Porsche guy can afford to contribute more because, duh, he has made the choice to buy an incredibly expensive car over much cheaper alternatives that provide identical functionality (well, maybe not as vroom vroom-y). That’s being fair, not some “tax the rich” scheme.

        For example, my car is two years old, and its tags (which are due next month) will cost me $150. My car is worth about $25K right now. If my tags were $500 this year, then $400 two years from now, eventually settling down to some minimum… how is this even a controversial or radical or “tax the rich!” idea? If the registration burden is too high, I’d buy a cheaper alternative.

  3. Or….maybe Seattle just isn’t cut out for the growth we are experiencing and what is predicted. Between shoddy and overly politicized leadership and the long and narrow geography this was the wrong town to let developers off their leashes.

  4. Just NO NO NO NO NO. Where is the accountability? What do we have to show for it? Some weird street car that nobody cares about?

  5. I own a house on Cap Hill and my property taxes have increased about 3.5 percent per year since 2004, which includes all the voter approved levies. Although I don’t like it, that rate seems relatively modest to me. The tax on my home actually declined a sizeable amount this year after a large increase the previous year so things tend to balance out over time.

    I also own Cap Hill rental properties and agree that renters might be inclined to vote “Yes” thinking the increases won’t trickle down, although most landlords have not been particularly shy about raising rents over the last ten years. I suspect the average percentage rent increase since 2004 surpasses the average property tax increase in that time period, so landlords are recovering property tax increases and then some.

    As a rental property owner I am sometimes tempted to let tenants know the overall property tax increase per apartment resulting from these levies. For example, if this levy is approved I will see about a $435 annual property tax increase at a six unit building I own. Divide by six, each apartment would incur a $72 annual property tax increase. I suspect most tenants would be willing to spend $6 more for monthly rent if they are inclined to support this plan.

    I don’t like several aspects of the plan, and will likely vote “No.” My vote won’t be based on objection to its cost but more on its policy objective, where I think it over reaches in several respects.

    • “I own a house on Cap Hill and my property taxes have increased about 3.5 percent per year since 2004, which includes all the voter approved levies.”

      That hasn’t been the case with my co-op, which has seen much more drastic increases over the same period. It could be neighborhood specific; my place is in the fancypants north part of the Hill, and may have had less of a downturn in the 2007-2010 period and a quicker recovery.

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