Voters rejection of Metro Transit measure to impact Kent

King County voters rejected a measure that would have provided more money to Metro Transit and for county and city roads. - COURTESY PHOTO
King County voters rejected a measure that would have provided more money to Metro Transit and for county and city roads.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Fewer Metro Transit buses will run in Kent and city crews will repair fewer streets after voters rejected King County's Metro Transit and roads Proposition No. 1.

King County voters were rejecting the proposition by 55 to 45 percent, according to results released Tuesday night by King County Elections. The no votes were 220,887 compared to 162,508 yes votes.

The measure would have charged $60 per year for vehicle license fees and raised the sales tax 0.1 percent (to 9.6 percent) to help pay for Metro Transit bus service as well as road projects in the county and cities within the county.

"That's $3.1 million we won't have coming to Kent," Kent City Council President Dana Ralph said during a phone interview.

Kent, based on its population, would have received $3.1 million per year for road repairs under the measure. The proposition would have generated about $130 million annually with 60 percent going to Metro and 40 percent to the county and cities for road and other transportation projects.

The bus reductions are expected to hit in September, Ralph said.

"We're losing nine routes that will be completely eliminated," she said. "Three others will be reduced. There will be more crowded buses and reduced service."

Ralph said she thought the proposition had a chance to pass.

"I was somewhat surprised," she said. "I felt it would have fairly strong support, especially in Seattle where voters use transit more."

Dick Paylor, spokesman for Families for Sustainable Transit, which opposed the proposition, said voters are tired of bailing out Metro and its high operating costs.

"It's not fair to expect taxpayers to pay more every time Metro needs money," Paylor said during a phone interview. "This would have been the fourth tax increase in the last eight years."

Paylor said voters had other reasons to oppose the measure as well.

"A lot of people hate the car tab tax and others hate any kind of tax," he said.

With the measure's failure, Ralph said the county and cities must look to the Legislature for help, although the state leaders have failed the last two years to come up with any transportation funding.

"It's up to the Legislature to do something," she said. "This was our only remedy. I think they're going to have to come up with a transportation package. They can do things that we can't do at the local level whether it's possibly a gas tax or tolling."

The King County Council formed a Transportation Benefit District in early February in order to send Proposition No. 1 to voters. County officials were trying to avoid Metro service cuts of 17 percent because of a lack of revenue, most of which they claimed came from a drop in sales tax revenue. A $20 vehicle license fee to Metro also expires this year.

The Transportation Benefit District is similar in structure to the King County Ferry District and King County Flood Control District, with the members of the County Council acting as the board. The board has the authority to acquire, construct, improve, provide and fund transportation improvements identified in the transportation plan of the Puget Sound Regional Council, the county or a city within the county.


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