On Monday, the King County Council approved a two-year, $20 fee on car tabs that will help fill King County Metro’s $60 million budget shortfall and stave off a 17 percent cut in service.
Why doesn’t Community Transit seek a car tab fee?
Short answer: We can’t.
Longer answer: We tried. The original bill to give transit agencies the authority to temporarily raise revenues with a “congestion relief” or car tab fee was written with Community Transit in mind by state Rep. Marko Liias. Ironically, Community Transit and Pierce Transit were excluded from the bill when it finally passed out of the state Senate Transportation Committee.
Why don’t we raise money some other way?
Short answer: We have done what we can.
Longer answer: We have raised bus fares twice in the past three years: local and paratransit fares in 2010, and local, commuter and paratransit fares in 2008. But the public service that is transit cannot be funded by fares alone.
Snohomish County voters approved a 3/10 of 1 percent increase in the sales tax in 2001 after the state took away a third of our funding that came from the motor vehicle excise tax. That vote put us at the state maximum 9/10 of 1 percent sales tax. As it happens, the only other agency in the state that has topped-out its sales tax authority is King County Metro.
As a result of the recession, agencies that have sales tax authority remaining have been asking voters to increase support for transit for the past two years; some have succeeded, some haven’t.
Bottom line for Community Transit: We need state support – in terms of direct revenue or new taxing authority – to help fund our service. Until that happens, the Community Transit Board must make difficult decisions to balance our budget, and Snohomish County residents face more painful cuts to public transportation.