Washington State Dems Poised to Steal From Transit and Education to Appease Car Owners

Washington State Democrats are prepared to cut funding from education and transit to give more money to car owners. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Washington State Democrats are prepared to cut funding from education and transit to give more money to car owners. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a story that really speaks to the political clout of motorists.

Democrats in the state of Washington recently gained the majority in the State Senate and now control both arms of the state legislature. Tops on the their agenda: lowering taxes on drivers. They’re so motivated to do it, they’re willing to steal from transit riders and homeless students in the process.

At issue are fees on car ownership in the Seattle region that voters approved in 2016 to support a $53 billion transit improvement package. Despite the outcome of the vote, Democrats are raring to reduce the fees to appease car owners.

A version that passed the House of Representatives would cost Sound Transit about $2 billion. Senate Democrats decided to ease the impact on transit by exempting the agency from $518 million in sales tax. But that sales tax revenue was earmarked for schools, reports The Stranger’s Heidi Grover, including an educational program for homeless kids.

The legislative session ends tomorrow. Owen Pickford at the Urbanist says it’s not too late to kill the bill as it heads to conference committee.

In 2015, Democrats compromised with Republicans by passing a $15 billion, unneeded highway expansion so that the Sound Transit 3 package (ST3) could get a chance to be on the ballot. ST3 was passed overwhelmingly. Shortly after approving the ballot measure, right-wing, anti-tax media stoked outrage about car tabs. Despite this, Democrats won a special election by a large margin, giving them control of the entire state government. Flash forward to today and state Democrats only have until March 8th to pass legislation. Despite this short timeframe, they’ve decided cutting car tab fees is their priority. These cuts will blow a huge $2 billion-plus-sized hole in transit funding. Rather than backfilling that hole with anything (a capital gains tax perhaps?), state Democrats decided to take money from education funding that could help homeless kids. The $518 million from the education fund sounds like a lot but since it’s a backloaded source that won’t come in until projects are constructed while car tab fees are frontloaded and collected now, it won’t help as much as it sounds.

Governor Jay Inslee, meanwhile, has not signaled whether he intends to sign the bill. The way things are shaping up, Democrats will be asking him to bend to car owners at the expense of education and transit.

  • Sean

    The lengths you have to stretch reality, logic, understanding and other things to consider a tax cut as “theft” from the government are astounding.
    It’s also funny that despite Dems having control of the state and are pushing this law, you still somehow blame the GOP. Dems *want* this, obviously. Stop being such a shameless partisan.

  • HayBro

    Didn’t the voters approve these taxes in 2016? Seems like a dereliction of duty to ignore that, especially when the same citizens just voted you in.

  • Jeremy

    Who is blaming the GOP?

    Following are quotes from above:

    “Democrats are raring to reduce the fees to appease car owners”

    ” [Democrats] decided cutting car tab fees is their priority”

    “state Democrats decided to take money from education funding”

    “Democrats will be asking him to bend to car owners”

  • 1980Gardener

    I don’t think the political clout of motorists should be surprising – after all, “motorists” includes nearly every WA resident.

  • AlanThinks

    This is more evidence of how our addiction to fossil fuels is making it very difficult to make headway on climate change. It does not offer hope on our ability to cut CO2 emissions in time to stave off the on-rushing disaster.

  • Anonymous Bike Zealot

    90% of the public never gets on bikes. I do everything I can to try and raise that number and it sure as hell doesn’t help when a one dimensional ideologue uses words like “steal” in her daily rant. Grow up, Angie. Act like an adult instead of a spoiled child. We are a small minority. Job 1 is flipping the numbers. Pissing everyone off isn’t helping.

  • Anonymous Bike Zealot

    The GOP is the standard boogeyman on Streetsblog, never mind that it’s roughly 50% of the voting population and a hell of a lot of people who might get on bikes if some of you actually reached out to them in the spirit of cooperation instead of calling them names. Angie’s beside herself because now Democrats are Republicans too, dammit! It would be comical if so much wasn’t at stake, but hey, let’s keep on doing what we’ve been doing because it’s working really, really well.

  • I thought this article was about transit?

    Also, far more than 10% of the public get on bikes, just because they represent a small percentage of trips, doesn’t mean that 30+% of the public don’t ride a bike at some point, and 70+% of the public aren’t interested in riding more.

    But again, this is about transit, as I understand it?

  • S.P. Miller

    1) She doesn’t once mention the GOP and doesn’t blame them for anything (in this particular article).

    2) It wouldn’t be “theft” if the Dems had decided just to cut the car tab tax without trying to backfill it. Instead, the Dems don’t want to look like they are picking apart their own transportation plan and will defund (or, steal if you will) from other programs that go towards the things Angie highlights.

    I understand that Angie hasn’t endeared herself to your conservative slant – I even grow tired of it sometimes. But in this instance she is criticizing Dems for doing something that is incredibly short-sighted, dumb, and you wouldn’t expect from a party that essentially won their majorities through pushing for the full package of goods coming in ST3.

    If the Dems want to give the citizens a tax cut, do it some other way.

  • Jonathan Krall

    Lots of people ride and lots of people would ride if they felt safe. It’s only 30% or so of US residents that don’t want to ride a bicycle. But this is supposed to be about transit.

    https://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/03/04/survey-100-million-americans-bike-each-year-but-few-make-it-a-habit/

  • Evan D

    We did approve them. Interest groups have been claiming ever since that voters weren’t properly informed, despite Sound Transit making a calculator available so voters could see how their taxes would personally change.

  • lowery57356

    Educational change is great things for us, deduction of fund from car and other sector for educational purpose was so nice decision. It was amazing change for us, specially students.

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