If You Pay Sales Tax at Amazon.com, Your Transit System Could Improve

A bill moving through Congress could help struggling transit systems around the country.

A bill to allow sales taxes to be charged on internet sales could mean more funding for transit in Seattle -- and lots of other places. Photo: ##http://seattletransitblog.com/2009/03/03/taxing-authority-for-transportation-agencies/##Seattle Transit Blog##

The Senate approved the Marketplace Fairness Act on Monday, a bill that would impose sales taxes on most items sold online to residents of the 45 states (and the District of Columbia) where stores charge sales tax.

PubliCola at SeattleMet highlighted the benefit to public transportation: “Local transit agencies rely heavily on sales taxes — in King County, for example, sales taxes contribute 54 percent of Metro funding — so a larger sales tax base translates into more funding for transit infrastructure.”

In fact, it could mean an additional $45.4 million each for Seattle’s metro and Sound Transit between 2014 and 2017. “For cash-strapped systems like Metro, that windfall could mean the difference between systemwide cuts and the first new service in years,” according to the SeattleMet article.

Seattle’s not the only city that stands to see a windfall for transit. More than a dozen other cities fund their public transportation systems using sales taxes, including Boston, Dallas, and San Francisco [PDF].

The Senate’s filibuster-proof 69-27 majority vote was a good sign, but the House is more divided on the bill. It’s not clear when the House will bring the measure up for a vote.

  • Mark

    lol yeahh! i guess after the nasty politicians stole the money they need to make it back somehow, so they tax the suckers.

  • Dave

    The problem here……you trust politicians to actually govern, they have no idea how to do that!

  • Anonymous

    Ha-HAHAHA
    Transit agencies should be operating and funding by the funds they generate for charging for a transit agency.
    Trying to tax PRIVATE companies more tax to makeup for a net negative revenue of a government agency is not a bright idea.
    You’re stealing from the private industry which is functioning well to pay for a socialist service that isnt working well. FIX YOUR AGENCY AND LEAVE THE PRIVATE INDUSTRY ALONE ! Stop wasting our taxes and stop feeding the unions leeches.

  • Anonymous

    Fares only make up a portion of transit agency revenues. The rest has to come from taxpayers. It works the same way with toll roads (or, you know, the ones you don’t pay for, which is most of them).

    It’s also not just private companies being taxed; it’s consumers. They’re supposed to be paying sales taxes on their purchases anyway, whether it’s Amazon.com or Joe’s Crab Shack.

  • Anonymous

    They do a decent job when you give them the resources they need, and give them hell when they don’t do their job. Streetcar funding in DC was restored, for example, after public outcry from constituents. Democracy starts with you, dear citizen.

  • Anonymous

    The money being stolen is the money that didn’t go to the states when people took their purchases out of brick-and-mortar stores and went online to dodge taxes.

  • Bob

    Money be stolen are you kidding me…

    This is how interstate commerce has been operating for decades. Further this isn’t about taxing Amazon or other E-tailers, it’s about penalizing people that purchase products online and diverting those fund to government subsidies that have a track record of being poorly managed.

  • Bob

    Money be stolen are you kidding me…

    This is how interstate commerce has been operating for decades. Further this isn’t about taxing Amazon or other E-tailers, it’s about penalizing people that purchase products online and diverting those fund to government subsidies that have a track record of being poorly managed.

  • …except there is no public transportation where i live…. and even if there were i’d rather be taxed less and put the money to driving my car.

  • “The rest has to come from taxpayers.”
    Public transportation doesn’t have to take money from taxpayers for a service they don’t use. They could always increase the fares on their service until it is equal to the operating costs. Not doing so makes it seem like riding a bus is cheaper for the community when it reality it costs more.

  • To say that people are stealing money by avoiding taxes is to say that the government owns all money, and that you are to be nothing but a slave to that government.

  • Miles Bader

    Well to be fair, there’s nothing inherent about fares being an inadequate source of funding, it simply happens to be the sad state that U.S. transit has found itself in after many many decades of poor management and “competing” against a heavily-subsidized and culturally entrenched opponent (cars).

  • Anonymous

    Riding a bus is cheaper for the community when you factor in the other benefits. It’s a public good like parks and schools. Those don’t depend (entirely) on user fees either, nor should they be expected to.

  • Anonymous

    I have yet to hear of losses from government subsides coming anywhere close to the likes of Enron and Lehman. Taxpayer accountability exists. Where it doesn’t, make it happen. If anything public funds are more subject to scrutiny because private property rights don’t get in the way of investigations.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, my dear libertarian hyperbolist. Taxes are a percentage. Until recently the Internet made it zero. Going back up from that is hardly asking for servitude.

  • Joe R.

    If you’re going to do that then you also need to charge motorists for all the negative externalities their mode of transit causes. If we did that, nearly everyone would be on public transit because driving would be unaffordable except for the wealthy.

  • What negative externalities?

  • “Riding a bus is cheaper for the community when you factor in the other benefits.” Benefits being being late for work causing the community to lose money from the work not done, getting home later from work making you less productive again, lost car sales and the industry that goes along with that, putting the corner gas station out of business.

  • Only a percentage of servitude. I’m happy to know im only 20 or so percent a slave.

  • I wasn’t taxed to pay for Enron or Lehman Brothers. Nobody cares if some random person wastes their money doing something stupid. Its when they do something stupid to waste their money then they look over at your money and want it that I have a problem.

  • Joe R.

    Cancers and asthma caused by air pollution, damage to structures caused by acid rain, cost of foreign wars to secure oil supplies, opportunity cost of land used for roads and parking lots, cost of injuries and deaths due to automobiles, and long term climate change. One way or another, society is already paying for these costs. People have to travel, but the primary mode of travel should be determined by what has the lowest negative externalities. We can only arrive at that by charging all modes for their negative externalities.

  • Joe R.

    I guess people are never late for work due to traffic congestion? Buses may suck, but railway running in a grade-separated right-of-way wins hands down in terms of reliable travel time over anything else. And you can have quite a large industry building and maintaining railroads instead of cars.

  • Actually, the main benefits of travel by bus are that you’re much less likely to kill someone. Cars kill tens of thousands of people a year. Buses kill far fewer, even accounting for the fact that fewer people travel by bus.

  • I’d be fine with eliminating subsidies for transit if we eliminated subsidies for cars at the same time. The most recent Tax Foundation survey found user fees (gas taxes, car tabs, tolls, parking fees, etc.) cover about one-third of the cost to build and maintain streets and roads. That doesn’t include the cost to provide traffic enforcement or accident response.

    If you had to pay your fair share for driving, transit wouldn’t need a subsidy, it would have more passengers than it could handle.

  • KillMoto

    Like… building more and wider roads, even though motorist fees (gas tax, registration, tolls) day for only half of construction? And even though for the last 8 years, all segments of society have been driving less?

    Because that’s something stupid, it wastes money, and the government takes more of my income, sales and property taxes to make up the difference (therefore subsidizing driving, which is stupid)

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