The Metropolitan King County Council may ask voters to decide whether they will increase their annual car-tab fees from $35 to up to $100 to save Metro Transit service.
While the specific numbers have yet to be determined, the 2007 “transportation benefit district” law allows a sales-tax increase of 2 cents per $10 purchase, to be collected by local governments that call themselves “districts.” Currently, Metro collects 9 cents per $10.
Otherwise, without some new revenue stream, Metro proposes to cut 17 percent of its bus service. Right now, 74 of 214 routes would be eliminated, and more than 100 will be changed, according to Metro’s “What’s at Risk” website (metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future), because of a $75 million budget deficit. Only 33 bus routes would be preserved as they are.
These and other governmental cuts started with ballot-initiative activist Tim Eyman’s popular 1999 $30-car-tab initiative, which cut state revenue by 7 percent, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline website. It was further exasperated by the recession: Metro said it has lost $1.2 billion in sales-tax revenue since 2009.
While voters have a say on how much of our money is taken and spent by the government, roughly more than half of the registered voters actually cast ballots in our primary and general elections — which are taxpayer-funded, no less. As of Friday, Nov. 20, voter turnout was about 47 percent in King County for the general election; about 53 percent voted in Seattle, according to the state Secretary of State’s Office, despite a contentious mayoral race.
Though this was an off-year election that didn’t feature presidential or other high-profile contests, only 79 percent of us usually vote in presidential election years and 62 percent in midterm elections.
County Councilmember Larry Phillips, of Magnolia, said of Metro’s future, “We’re not going to be left in a situation where we’re not going to give voters the ability to save the system.”
If and when it comes up for a vote — via the state Legislature or a county ballot measure — it will be our opportunity to have our say about whether Metro’s bus service is worth saving at the cost they’re proposing. Regardless of where we stand on this and other governmental spending, we need to show we care with our votes — all of our voices need to be heard.