Last week, Sound Transit floated a $15 billion plan to expand “mostly” rail service. The transit agency’s Sound Transit 3 (ST3) package would require “a new property tax, higher sales taxes, car-tab taxes, some combination, or other sources.” In exchange, Sound Transit Finance Director Brian McCarton 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…”
That’s right, for a whopping $15 billion dollars taxpayers get a promise that Sound Transit “could” bring rail to “most but not all” marquee locations. What a great deal… right – especially since, based on experience, with Sound Transit the price will always go up and the services will go down.
According to the Seattle Times, 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.”
Agency officials will begin pushing the Legislature for a higher tax limit this legislative cycle in hopes of getting ST3 on the ballot by 2016.
Sound Transit Board Chairman and King County Executive Dow Constantine commented on the possibility saying, “There is a growing excitement about a potential Sound Transit ballot measure in 2016. We have a lot of work to do.”
An interesting statement considering that it’s not often the public gets excited about voting for a $15 billion spending package courtesy of a government agency that has repeatedly violated voter trust without any accountability. You see, Sound Transit does not have a great track record of keeping its promises to voters—in fact, its record is terrible.
Most recently, in 2010, Sound Transit asked voters to approve its second expansion package, ST2. Transit officials promised voters that, in return for a sales tax hike, the “expanded rail portion (137 miles of light rail and commuter rail) would carry 310,000 passenger trips per day by 2030.” Fast forward just two years later and officials revised their promise, estimating that the rail would only “carry about 164,000 trips per day.” To be clear, that’s about half of what was originally promised to voters.
In the end, Sound Transit got to keep its higher tax authority without being accountable for breaking its promise to voters (agency officials are appointed rather than elected to their positions). Win, win for Sound Transit, huge loss for taxpayers. We wish that’s the only time Sound Transit has violated the public’s trust, but it’s not. It’s really, really not.
Yet, Sound Transit officials and their Democrat supporters now want to ask the public for more taxes to start new construction projects before current projects are even completed—not to mention old promises kept. There’s no other explanation for the audacity other than transit officials seem to be banking on hopes that legislators in Olympia and Snohomish, King and Pierce county voters suffer from both long and short term memory loss. That, or their project to groom kids as young as five years old to favor, and someday vote for, buses and trains will reach the first wave of fruition by 2016.
But just in case those precocious kids are not quite ready to vote for taxing themselves perpetuity, Constantine has hired a new lobbying team so he can better use public money to lobby other public officials to take more money from the public.
That’s what Democrats call a win-win-win situation.