OutOfService

County Councilmember Hague: $20 Car Tab Hike “Temporary Band-Aid” For Metro’s Woes

King County Councilmember Jane Hague called Metro’s mess and the $20 per car fee what they are, a big problem and a short-sighted solution.

“Metro’s budget problems require more than a temporary band-aid,” Hague told NW Daily Marker by email Wednesday.

The representative of King County’s 6th District has plenty of company in her dissatisfaction with the idea of raising car tabs to pay for Metro’s shortfall.

A KING 5/SurveyUSA poll taken last week found only 43% support for the raising car tabs by $20 to resolve the transit authority’s budget woes, and the hammer fell Wednesday in the form of a scathing The Seattle Times editorial.

The Times blasted County Executive Constantine and the car tab fee supporters in a scathing editorial, arguing that the compound effect of passing along one more bill to taxpayers in hard economic times and skipping past requiring Metro to revisit its contracts for driver pay was a bridge too far:

Constantine can point to Metro’s problems right now and make a logical case for the new $20 tax. In other times, this page would have agreed with him. Twenty dollars is, as a county official suggested, only five lattes. So it is.

The problem is that the five lattes are on top of all the other lattes, mochas and Frappuccinos people already buy for their government. Taxes go up in bad years because times are bad and good years because we can afford it.

There has to be a stopping point. Given the economic pain, the public opposition and the unbelievable claim that the $20 tax is for two years only, this is a good time to say no.

Hague has been publicly opposed to a hike in car tab fees for funding Metro since the idea went public in May, and now she senses a creeping bipartisan dread about pushing a solution into the laps of voters that would not enable Metro to accomplish its primary mission—serving county commuters who rely on public transit to get around.

“I am deeply concerned about the inevitable route cuts,” she said. “The $20 fee does not cover Metro’s entire budget shortfall and spending into reserves without a plan for sustainability only puts transit at future risk. Routes will still be cut no matter what happens, with a majority of those taking place in South and East King County. Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have also voiced concern over this inequity of service.”

So, just what is Metro’s track record for making good on promises made to Mom and Dad Taxpayer after their allowance has been raised? Not good, as Washington Policy Center transportation policy director Michael Ennis pointed out last week:

Metro officials have not delivered the expanded bus service promised from the previous two tax increases in 2000 and 2006. Officials promised an additional 1.2 million hours of new bus service by 2016 in exchange for two sales tax increases. Since then, officials have only delivered about 326,000 hours, or 73 percent less than what they promised.

Reporting elsewhere claims that Hague may be joined by fellow councilmember and Republican candidate for Washington State Attorney General Reagan Dunn in opposing the fee hike when the council takes it up for a vote, but forcing it to a vote of the people will require two more councilmembers to link arms and vote “no.”

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[photo credit: flickr]

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2 Comments

  1. DCGere

    “for two years only”, yeah right. And I’m the tooth fairy…

    • That’s really the problem, isn’t it? Tax increases are rarely temporary, but user fees sometimes are lifted when such promises are made. After Metro takes the step of renegotiating its contracts with drivers (with specific attention paid to overtime and pensions), the transit authority should get creative. Could park & ride users be asked to pay a $50 annual fee for a permit to park their cars? Maybe. Maybe not. It might be a silly idea, but many of us think that Metro hasn’t been creative enough to even start weeding silly ideas from good.

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