Train wreck — er, bus crash — ahead!

Residents of King County should try to attend special public meetings of the county Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee to discuss proposed cuts in bus and trolley service.

Wednesday, July 6, 6:00 p.m.
Kirkland City Council Chambers
123 Fifth Avenue, Kirkland

Tuesday, July 12, 6:00 p.m.
King County Council Chambers
516 Third Avenue, 10th Floor, Seattle

Thursday, July 21, 6:00 p.m.
Burien City Council Chambers
400 S.W. 152nd Street, Burien

As explained in “Executive calls on King County Council to enact interim Metro funding or face cutting 17 percent of bus service over the next two years“,

The recession-driven decline in the sales-tax revenues that support public transit leaves the Metropolitan King County Council with two choices – ensure interim funding to continue service at current levels, or face the reality of cutting 17 percent of bus service.

To meet that challenge, King County Executive Dow Constantine today sent the Council a proposed ordinance to enact the one tool recently authorized by the state Legislature for King County: a temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses for each of the next two years.

Without additional funding, the county will have to shrink Metro service by 600,000 hours annually, equivalent to 17% of overall service. This would especially harm low-income workers who depend on buses to commute to work. It would also cause further congestion and pollution.

It’s not only the poor and the liberals who support the $20 license fee. Many businesses do too.

According to Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, “Transit service is the economic lifeblood for Downtown Seattle and King County. Metro makes it possible for tens of thousands of residents from Kent, Renton, Seattle and places in between to get to their jobs Downtown. Cuts to bus service will negatively impact employees and employers and make it harder for King County to recover from the economic recession.”

Indeed, a business group associated with the Chamber of Commerce has come out in favor of the $20 license fee, saying “saying businesses would be hurt if employees and customers can’t get to businesses because bus routes are cut. He said the group will make that issue a primary one in grading County Council candidates and incumbents.” See Even the Chamber of Commerce wants this fee and New business PAC to County: Support transit tax.

The root cause of this problem is conservative anti-tax hysteria  and, in particular, Tim Eyman’s I-1053 initiative. The legislature applied Tim Eyman’s 2/3 majority rule to the King County council, who would need to approve the $20 fee increase. But Eyman has apparently convinced the four Republicans on the nine member council to oppose any fee increase. See Tim Eyman attacks public transit.

A far better solution than a $20 fee on automobile licenses would be a progressive income tax. Washington State has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation, with the rich paying a far lower percentage of their income in state taxes than the middle class. Nationwide, conservatives have been slashing taxes for the rich, increasing the concentration of wealth, and convincing naive voters to support regressive anti-tax initiatives like I-1053, which not only makes it hard to raise taxes but also makes it hard to eliminate the many tax exemptions (for out-of-state banks, for example) that burden Washington State’s tax system.

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