Political leaders in King County want voters to help stave off drastic cuts to Metro bus service.
On Tuesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed raising car tab fees, sales taxes and bus fares. The money would pay for transit service and road maintenance.
The King County Council will take up the proposal on Wednesday. If it passes, it would go to voters to be approved in a special election in April.
County leaders say if they can’t come up with additional funding, 74 bus routes will be eliminated and dozens more will see reductions in service.
“I was not elected to see infrastructure minimized, I cannot stand by … to see transit and roads in King County deteriorate,” said Jane Hague, a Republican and vice-chair of the King County Council.
Metro has been in financial trouble ever since the 2008 economic crisis.
“We lost $1.3 billion that we were anticipating receiving from sales taxes due to the shenanigans on Wall Street and the Great Recession,” Constantine said.
The county cut $800 million from Metro’s budget and raised fares four times.
County leaders have been waiting for the state to pass a transportation package that would address Metro’s funding problems, but that hasn’t happened.
“We waited, and we waited, and now time is up,” Constantine said at a press conference attended by political leaders from across King County.
Constantine’s proposal would establish a $60 annual car tab fee, and a one-tenth of one cent sales tax that would expire in 10 years.
The package would raise about $130 million a year. Sixty percent of those revenues would pay for bus service, and 40 percent would fund roads and transportation needs around King County.
At the same time, Metro is proposing a 25-cent fare increase, its fifth proposed increase in five years. But for the first time, low-income riders could qualify for a reduced fare of $1.50 per trip.
If the proposal is not adopted, county leaders are warning of dire consequences. Metro would be forced to slash its budget by 17 percent.
“You will see a loss of service immediately,” said Larry Phillips, chair of the King County Council.
With 74 routes eliminated and 107 routes reduced or revised, it would be “hard to get to work, hard to get around,” Phillips said. “So that’s the choice. Do I want that reality or pay a little more to keep the system moving?”