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With Seattle Transit Funds Under Siege By State Legislators, the Governor Rides to the Rescue

Some good news today out of the Pacific Northwest, where the Washington state legislature had been threatening to undermine the results of a Seattle referendum to raise $53 billion to expand regional transit.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee saved transit funding in Seattle. Ohio transit advocates were not so lucky. Photo: Jay Inslee official photo
Washington Governor Jay Inslee saved transit funding in Seattle. Ohio transit riders were not so lucky.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee saved transit funding in Seattle. Ohio transit advocates were not so lucky. Photo: Jay Inslee official photo

One measure under consideration would have cost Sound Transit as much as $6 billion. But Governor Jay Inslee wasn't having it and used his veto power to fend off attacks on multiple fronts. In the end transit came out slightly ahead.

There were three bills that could have affected funding, but in each case, the threats were neutralized, reports Martin Duke at Seattle Transit Blog:

[The budget bill] contained a diversion of Sound Transit sales tax funding from ST to the state’s general fund, by mandating a 1% collection charge on Sound Transit’s portion of sales tax by the Department of Revenue. The governor vetoed that section of the bill. In his veto message, he stated:

This subsection requires the Department of Revenue to renegotiate its contract with Sound Transit for the collection of sales tax. The department is required to charge Sound Transit an administrative fee of 1 percent, which is more than is charged under the current contract. This will reduce the funding available for Sound Transit to deliver the voter-approved transit package. For these reasons, I have vetoed Section 136(2).

This was one of 13 sections the governor vetoed in the bill.

The line-item veto is a double-edged sword, however, and in Ohio it slashed away transit funding.

The state's biannual budget will halt sales tax collection on some healthcare services, costing transit agencies $40 million a year beginning in 2019. That equates to an estimated 10 percent service cut to Cleveland's RTA, according to Clevelanders for Public Transit, and will impose similar damage on transit service around the state.

The loss is all the more frustrating because transit advocates had successfully negotiated a fix, which was sponsored by Cleveland-area Republican Matt Dolan. But Governor John Kasich used his line-item veto to undo the amendment. CPT is asking Ohio residents to contact their reps and urge them to override the veto.

More recommended reading today: Lisa Schweitzer considers the debate over whether L.A. Metro should eliminate its monthly passes. And another post from Seattle Transit Blog reviews how major local employers are putting real resources into better transit.

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