NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Move King County Now! Local leaders prepare to go to the ballot to save Metro, bypassing Rodney Tom, Andy Hill, Senate Republicans

Mak­ing good on last mon­th’s promise to act in the event that the Repub­li­can-con­trolled state Sen­ate con­tin­ued to block leg­is­la­tion allow­ing King Coun­ty to save Metro and KCDOT from evis­cer­a­tion, coun­ty law­mak­ers vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly today to take the first step towards putting a fall­back plan before vot­ers in April.

The Coun­cil used its exist­ing author­i­ty under state law to cre­ate what’s called a Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict… TBD for short. TBDs can be formed by cities and coun­ties to pay for trans­porta­tion improve­ments with­in their juris­dic­tion. Through the TBD, the coun­ty can go to vot­ers with a pro­pos­al to pro­tect Metro Tran­sit ser­vice and address the coun­ty’s immense road main­te­nance back­log.

The pro­pos­al the coun­ty intends to sub­mit to vot­ers was for­mal­ly unveiled last month at a news con­fer­ence head­lined by Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine.

It is infor­mal­ly known as “Plan B” because the coun­ty was sup­posed to receive the author­i­ty to levy a motor vehi­cle excise tax as part of a statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age so it could invest in Metro and KCDOT.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate, which is con­trolled by Rod­ney Tom, Andy Hill, Cur­tis King, and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, is hope­less­ly grid­locked due to inter­nal squab­bling and has­n’t put any trans­porta­tion plan up for a vote.

Metro will have to begin slash­ing ser­vice lat­er this year if it does­n’t get help. That’s why the Move King Coun­ty Now effort (which NPI is a part of) was formed.

“With for­ma­tion of a coun­ty­wide Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict, King Coun­ty now has a poten­tial tool for fund­ing preser­va­tion of Metro Tran­sit ser­vice and main­te­nance of local roads and trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture,” said Coun­cil Chair Lar­ry Phillips in a news release explain­ing the coun­cil’s vote.

“With­out new rev­enue, King Coun­ty faces tran­sit ser­vice cuts of up to sev­en­teen per­cent and at least a $50 mil­lion annu­al gap for the main­te­nance of coun­ty roads.”

King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Rod Dem­bows­ki added, “As we move for­ward, I am com­mit­ted to ensur­ing that the TBD uses the author­i­ty grant­ed by law for rebates of vehi­cle license fees to low-income tax­pay­ers to ensure that any fund­ing mea­sure is as pro­gres­sive in nature as pos­si­ble.”

The nine-mem­ber King Coun­ty Coun­cil, con­sist­ing of five Democ­rats and four Repub­li­cans, will serve as the TBD’s board, and will have the pow­er to actu­al­ly turn “Plan B” into Propo­si­tion 1 in time for the print­ing of bal­lots for the April 22nd spe­cial elec­tion. (State law allows local juris­dic­tions to hold spe­cial elec­tions on fixed dates in either Feb­ru­ary or April, or con­cur­rent­ly with the win­now­ing or gen­er­al elec­tions in August and Novem­ber of each year).

The Leg­is­la­ture has a very small win­dow of time left to act before the TBD sends Propo­si­tion 1 to the bal­lot. But no one seems to think they will. And if his­to­ry is any indi­ca­tion, they won’t. The House pro­posed a trans­porta­tion pack­age last spring, and actu­al­ly vot­ed it out, but in the Sen­ate, it was ama­teur hour all year long.

As I not­ed on Fri­day, Sen­ate Repub­li­cans sim­ply can’t agree among them­selves on a pack­age… in part because some of them are reflex­ive­ly opposed to any new tax­es to pay for any­thing. House Democ­rats and Gov­er­nor Inslee have said they’re done nego­ti­at­ing until Repub­li­cans get their act togeth­er. But that’ll hap­pen when George W. Bush admits his admin­is­tra­tion invad­ed Iraq based on false pre­tens­es.

“Plan B” is thus real­ly “Plan A”, because the Leg­is­la­ture has not pro­duced even an out­line of a statewide trans­porta­tion pack­ages that both hous­es could agree to.

The inac­tion in the state­house may turn out to be a bless­ing in dis­guise. Many leg­is­la­tors are what we like to call road war­riors — not the kind of peo­ple who love to trav­el and work from wher­ev­er they are, but the kind of peo­ple who like to spend mon­ey con­struct­ing new high­ways or arte­ri­als and mak­ing exist­ing ones wider.

We can’t afford to keep doing that.

What was on the table on 2012 was most­ly road projects. Even the House­’s trans­porta­tion plan was auto-cen­tric. Move King Coun­ty Now, on the oth­er hand, is a much more sen­si­ble plan. It would save all of the Metro routes that are on the chop­ping block, and it would fund basic road main­te­nance (think snow­plows, resur­fac­ing, replac­ing struc­tural­ly defi­cient bridges).

We at NPI strong­ly believe in a “Safe­ty First” approach (it was the mot­to of the polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee we formed to help defeat I‑912 in 2005) and we com­mend King Coun­ty lead­ers for step­ping up and show­ing real lead­er­ship to address our trans­porta­tion fund­ing cri­sis. We can’t wait any longer.

Since the Sen­ate won’t act, it’s time for us to take mat­ters here into our own hands. We have a chance both to save our Metro bus ser­vice and get KCDOT on the road to recov­ery (pun intend­ed). Let’s make it hap­pen. Let’s Move King Coun­ty Now!

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One Comment

  1. Good luck, Seat­tle. Hope you can save your mass tran­sit sys­tem! We will be cheer­ing you on.

    # by Stephanie Drew :: February 28th, 2014 at 5:53 AM