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King County executive vetoes County Council's plan to reduce Metro bus cuts

King County Executive Dow Constantine and the County Council are at odds over how much to cut Metro bus service. - COURTESY PHOTO, Metro Transit
King County Executive Dow Constantine and the County Council are at odds over how much to cut Metro bus service.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, Metro Transit

Saying the legislation falls short of responsible budgeting, King County Executive Dow Constantine on Monday vetoed an ordinance passed 5-4 earlier in the day by the King County Council that fails to provide sustainable funding for Metro bus service.

"We need a reliable way to pay for bus service – but until then, we shouldn't spend money we don’t have, we shouldn’t use one-time money to pay ongoing expenses, and decisions to save or cut service should be based on objective criteria and data, not on politics,” said Constantine in a county media release. “This ordinance falls short on all counts. I must respectfully veto this legislation, and ask that the Council keep working on a solution that is responsible and sustainable.”

Council chairman Larry Phillips agreed with the veto.

“This legislation is no different than writing a big check without enough money in the bank, hoping you can cover it before the check bounces – without an approved plan or the revenues to do so,” Phillips said. “To operate the nation’s 10th-largest transit system, carrying 400,000 riders a day on 1,300 coaches, requires thoughtful planning and fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, while the legislation passed today (Tuesday) strives to be thoughtful, it fails to be responsible. It is based on hopes and guesses, rather than on revenue that can be counted upon.”

Councilman Dave Upthegrove, who represents much of Kent, also liked the move.

“I want to thank the executive for giving us this opportunity to keep negotiations alive,” Upthegrove said. “I believe we can find a compromise solution. I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on the Council to find a solution that balances Metro’s budget and keeps buses running throughout the county.”

Councilman Rod Dembowski sponsored the service reduction ordinance passed by the council.

“I heard from the voters in April, and they resoundingly told us that King County and Metro needed to do more work and consider each and every option before asking for additional revenue,” said Dembowski, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. “I put forward this plan to identify additional cost savings, efficiencies and new revenue that can reduce Metro's annual budget gap, and thereby significantly decrease the number of transit service hours that need to be cut.”

The ordinance approved by the council implemented only the service reductions originally proposed for September of this year, with a focus on the cutting of bus routes that are below the 25 percent productivity threshold that is part of the county’s adopted Transit Service Guidelines. The total number of bus routes cut would be 31, with an additional eight routes altered.

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