In its year-end 2012 Performance Report, presented Thursday at the monthly Sound Transit board meeting in Seattle, ST’s Citizen Oversight Panel took the regional transit agency to task for poor operating cost controls and questionable resource allocation choices, while revenues are 30 percent lower than expected. The COP says in its report that with the Great Recession having smacked down projected ST 2 revenues by nearly a third, Sound Transit needs to clamp down on growth in day-to-day costs such as a planned 9 percent bump in transit operations spending in 2013, and what has been an ongoing five percent average growth rate for agency operating costs. That includes overhead and a particular sore point, security.
Collaboration in Civic Spheres
Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category
by Matt Rosenberg March 1st, 2013
by Matt Rosenberg February 18th, 2013
A new report to the legislature says Washington state is currently $1.43 billion short of what it would take to complete a crucial six-lane, six-mile partially-tolled extension of State Route 167 from Meridian Avenue in Puyallup across Interstate 5 to Port of Tacoma Road and State Route 509. According to the report just issued by the Washington State Department of Transportation, another $1.5 billion is needed for right-of-way purchases, securing permits and building the project, but only $65 million could be raised over 30 years through current plans to electronically toll one lane in each direction. Combined with a long laundry list of other road and transit needs statewide, the findings add to already considerable pressure for lawmakers to approve some sort of transportation funding package in Olympia this session.
State survey: more Washingtonians see transportation problems than a year ago, but they’re iffy on paying for fixes
by Matt Rosenberg February 14th, 2013
Across Washington, just 64 percent of regional respondents say the condition of their surface transportation system rated a “C” grade or better in 2012, versus 70 percent in 2011, according to key results of a major survey presented this week to the state senate transportation committee by the state transportation commission. And just 53 percent felt their area was getting its fair share of state transportation funding in 2012, versus 60 percent in 2011.
With baseline annual state transportation system maintenance needs identified in the survey at $2.1 billion, 51 percent of the 7,897 respondents across the state’s 14 different Regional Transportation Planning Organization (RTPO) jurisdictions said they’d support new revenues such as higher taxes, fees or tolls, versus 59 percent in 2011. But questioned more closely on what they’d really be willing to pay, and in what form, responses were quite mixed, showing that state lawmakers and local and regional officials may have a tough sales job ahead.
by Matt Rosenberg January 10th, 2013
At a meeting this week of the Seattle City Council’s Transportation Committee, Chairman and Council Member Tom Rasmussen said the city will have no “other choice but to go back to the voters again in two years to ask for approval of extending or perhaps even increasing” the current “Bridging The Gap” levy before it expires in 2016, in order to continue progress on bridge maintenance, repair and replacement, and funding for other city transportation system fixes. His remarks came at the close of a presentation January 8th in which department officials accented some sobering facts. They stressed Seattle has a $1.8 billion deferred transportation maintenance backlog including more than $1 billion for bridges, retaining walls, public stairways and other vertical structures; and that current annual transportation maintenance spending of $40 to $50 million by the city is far short of the needed $190 million per year.
by Matt Rosenberg December 4th, 2012
In a report released today, an advisory committee to Washington state transportation officials pronounced as “feasible” an envisioned and sure to be controversial working concept for charging drivers by the mile, to fund future surface transportation system needs in the state. In a draft feasibility assessment, work plan and budget reviewed today during a meeting in SeaTac of the Washington State Road User Charge Assessment Steering Committee, the body found the proposed mileage tax – which it prefers to call a road user charge – “is feasible in Washington” and warrants further study detailed in the report. Next steps would cost at least $3.5 million and present the state legislature with enough information to decide whether the mileage tax is desirable, and if so, exactly how it would be implemented. Lawmakers will decide in the coming 2013 session whether to proceed with more study.
by Matt Rosenberg October 23rd, 2012
The Seattle Channel’s “City Inside Out” takes a look at Initiative 502 in an informative TV magazine segment below. If approved by voters, the initiative would legalize possession in Washington state of an ounce or less of marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. Pot purchased from approved dispensaries would be taxed at a rate of 25 percent, adding as much as $500 million a year in state revenues, according to official estimates. Street busts of small-scale buyers and sellers, which clog courts and which some say unfairly ensnare African-Americans, would subside. But critics say the high tax would fuel continuing black market sales – and that because it’s still a federal crime to possess pot, I-502 raises more questions than it answers.
The question facing voters on the ballot: “This measure would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues. Should this measure be enacted into law?”
More from “City Inside Out.”
RELATED: “Marijuana legalization Leads In New Polls, But Not A Lock,” Seattle Times, 10/22/12
by Matt Rosenberg September 23rd, 2012
Around Washington state this fall city councils, regional associations of cities and regional transportation planning boards are trying to find common ground on what sort of transportation revenue measures to push in the Winter 2013 session of the state legislature to address worn-out and crowded roads and highways and transit system preservation. High-profile electronic tolling in Central Puget Sound will cover only a modest portion of that region’s funding needs. Statewide, a governor’s task force early this year identified $50 billion worth of necessary surface transportation work in the next decade. But a recently approved Congressional transportation spending bill funnels only $1.3 billion here in the next two years. So cities are working to develop a consensus position to advance in Olympia. Several key possibilities, according to a staff memo to be discussed by the Bellevue City Council Monday night are:
* an increase of eight cents in statewide gas tax;
* a local option hike of baseline countywide vehicle license fee from $20 to $40;
* and perhaps even allowing counties to implement a one percent motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).
Though local option measures could advance this year, a statewide gas tax hike might have to wait until 2014. The one percent MVET could be a local option only, not imposed statewide. A city or county council would be able to approve it, or could choose to let local voters decide. Counties which adopted an MVET would get two-thirds of revenues for transit and roads, and cities would get the rest to repair and build arterial streets.
For King County, the Bellevue memo says, a one percent MVET would yield about $75 million annually. Likewise, as outlined in the Bellevue staff memo, an increase in local vehicle license fees from $20 to $40 would not be imposed but could be approved by an elected city or county council or a local transportation benefit district. Another idea being considered is an annual electric vehicle fee of $200.
Bellevue staff say a local option MVET is attractive because it can be used for all surface transportation purposes including transit whereas the gas tax is for roads only; and that the MVET is progressive, based on the value of the vehicle, rather than the same for all regardless of income or vehicle value, like the gas tax. Similarly, a City of Shoreline staff memo also dated September 24, on legislative priorities, says the progressive MVET is preferable to the flat vehicle license fee. However part of the political baggage carried by the MVET is a fair play problem, as some vehicle owners loudly voiced concerns over inaccurate value assessments and overcharging when it was previously in effect in Washington. There’s a thorny backstory, though. In a ballot initiative led by anti-tax activist Tim Eyman in 1999, Washington voters opted to end the oft-reviled MVET, and despite a later court ruling invalidating the measure, legislators chose to let it lie.
King County’s Metro bus service has a lot riding on extension and growth of the vehicle license fee. Following passage of enabling state legislation, the county council in August 2011 approved a temporary 2012-13 license fee of $20 to help maintain bus service and control congestion, with the proviso that a broader funding approach would be implemented in the future.
A gas tax hike of eight cents wouldn’t actually do much good, at least in the state’s most populous and traveled sectors, where mega-project tabs easily run into the billions. According to the Bellevue staff memo, a gas tax hike of eight cents would generate $2.56 billion in a decade with two thirds to the state and a third, or $896 million altogether, to local governments. But the memo notes, “this part of the proposal represents a very modest level of revenue when you consider that the cost of expanding I-405 south of Bellevue through SR 167 is $1.7 billion. the gas tax is attractive in so far as it is a user fee, a principle supported by the Council over the years. However, to address major corridors like I-405, the statewide gas tax level would have to be much higher.”
Although not mentioned in the memo, other unfunded or underfunded mega-projects dot the Seattle regional landscape. Completion of the replacement bridge across SR 520 on Lake Washington requires a missing $2 billion. High priority work on I-5 in Seattle to repair pavement and ease bottlenecks is estimated in the several billions. Crucial safety fixes to U.S. Route 2 in Snohomish County have been pegged at more than $1 billion. Likewise the extension of SR 509 to I-5 just south of SeaTac Airport, a key freight mobility and congestion relief project. Between 2010 and 2040 in the Central Puget Sound region of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties, $64 billion more than anticipated revenue will needed to keep roads, bridges, and transit in decent shape, according to the Transportation 2040 report released by the Puget Sound Regional Council.
That’s why the state is moving ahead with first-stage exploration of a more sweeping approach to tax vehicles by the mile using on-board devices or other high-tech solutions. The Bellevue staff memo does mention this option, but says it “appears to be significantly difficult to implement and may be years away from widespread acceptance.”
RELATED: “How To Get Involved In The WA Vehicle Mileage Tax Study,” Public Data Ferret.