As Shift reported, the Washington State Transportation Commission (WTC) released its Washington Transportation Plan 2035 (WTP 2035) last week. WTC’s plan includes an interesting recommendation for new public transportation funding sources. The Commission points out,
“Many public transportation agencies have had successful ballot measures to increase tax revenues for transit. Unfortunately, five of the state’s public transportation systems have reached their maximum taxing authority and have no other funding sources without additional authority…”
In order to remedy this problem, WTC recommends that the Legislature “provide transit agencies with adequate revenue authority, including expanded local-option funding authority.” Of course, if the Legislature follows WTC’s advice, Sound Transit would have all it needs to put its latest $15 billion spending package before the voters in 2016, long before it has completed the work promised in the first two Sound Transit funding votes.
In November, Sound Transit floated the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) package that would require “a new property tax, higher sales taxes, car-tab taxes, some combination, or other sources.” In exchange, the transit agency assured the taxpaying public that the agency “could bring rail to most but not all of the marquee destinations on agency maps and the public’s mind at neighborhood forums…”
As Shift reported, Sound Transit already collects the maximum sales tax and car-tab tax allowed under state law for its first two phases of rail and bus projects—Sound Transit 1 and 2 (ST1 and ST2). In order to fund ST3, the agency “needs another act of the Legislature to ask the voters in urban areas of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties for more.”
This legislative session, agency officials will begin pushing the Legislature for a higher tax limit in hopes of getting ST3 on the ballot by 2016. And, it appears, Sound Transit’s push has the backing of the WTC, along with Jay Inslee and most Democrat members of the legislature.