The State House is expected to consider ESSB 6582 (click view by bills) this week, a bill that could grant transit agencies authority for a portion of motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) funding.
The bill is written to give counties new authority to ask voters for this funding option for transportation purposes, but recent amendments have bolstered the chances for struggling transit agencies to receive a share.
ESSB 6582, as written, says that before preparing the ballot measure for up to a one-percent MVET, the county legislative authority (in our case the Snohomish County Council) shall talk to the transit system/s in its area and establish a collaborative process.
This means that an agreement could be reached whereby the transit agency would receive some portion of the requested MVET funding. Why would a county do this? Perhaps to improve the measure's chances at the ballot by presenting it as a legitimate "roads and transit" effort.
The bill also says that if a county does not impose a local MVET of up to one-percent by December 31, 2013, the transit systems within that county may impose up to one-half of the county's one-percent, and that a county may waive the December 31, 2013, deadline.
Meaning that if the county waits for a vote or simply decides not to go for a vote of MVET funds by Dec. 13, 2013, the transit agency in that county can seek such a measure for up to 0.5 percent.
None of these options guarantee funding for transit agencies. They require a public vote and some measure of cooperation with the county. But for an agency like Community Transit, there is no other option for substantial additional revenue.
ESSB 6582 is in the House Rules Committee now awaiting a floor vote. The 2012 legislative session is due to end on March 8.