Rep. Farrell introduces bill to support transportation with vehicle excise tax

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rep. Jessyn Farrell D-46
Democratic 46th District State Rep. Jessyn Farrell wants to avoid cuts to local transportation and has proposed an optional motor-vehicle excise tax to support transit agencies and local road maintenance.

Farrell said Monday that her proposal would allow transit agencies to avoid service cuts.

“With more commuters than ever choosing public transit to get to work every day, we need both state and local funding options for our transit agencies,” Farrell said. “We have to give our communities the tools they need to protect their core programs and services.”

Farrell’s legislation would permit counties with a population of 1 million or more to levy a motor vehicle excise tax of up to 1.5 percent. It would dedicate 60 percent of the revenue from the tax to public transportation systems, while reserving the remaining 40 percent for cities and counties to perform key road maintenance. King County currently is the only county in Washington with more than a million people.

Farrell said that transit agencies across the state have faced recent budget problems due to declining or expiring revenue sources. King County Metro will cut one-sixth of its passenger hours without new revenue. Pierce Transit is set for a massive 34 percent service reduction after a measure to replace lost revenue was defeated at the ballot box in 2012.

Rob Johnson, executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition, a pro-transit advocacy organization, said, “Transit is a vital part of our transportation system and we need to find a way to keep buses on the streets,” adding, “Local options have been widely supported by voters across Washington and are desperately needed in order to adequately fund the transit we have and the transit that we’ll need in the near future.”

While Farrell focuses on the need for local transportation funding options, she also recognizes the role that transit plays in serving underprivileged groups.

“These transit services that are used disproportionately by low-income families, seniors, and people living with disabilities,” she said. “This is about protecting everyone’s ability to get where they need to go by preserving transportation choices in our communities.”

The House transportation committee held a hearing on the bill, HB 1959, Monday afternoon.

Farrell’s fellow 46th District Democratic representative, Gerry Pollet, is a co-sponsor as are Democratic 32nd District State Reps. Ruth Kagi and Cindy Ryu.

The 46th District includes Lake Forest Park, Kenmore and northeast Seattle. The 32nd District includes Shoreline; part of northwest Seattle, south Edmonds, and Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County, Lynnwood and part of Mountlake Terrace.


Anonymous,  March 10, 2013 at 1:31 PM  

Indications are that our existing roads and bridges are falling apart. The question we need to have answered is "why?" WSDOT needs to be required to provide a great deal more transparency than they do now. I received a survey from the Voice of Washington that indicates that it would take a 33¢ increase in gas taxes just to maintain what we have, which IMO should be our highest priority. But, with transparency. Why are our gas taxes so much higher than most other states? Are we maintaining our roads better than they (by accounts I've seen, that answer is yes)? Are our projects on time and on budget? What roads/bridges are in most dire need of maintaining? How much more is it going to cost us if we do nothing? What bridges are being closed - or converted to pedestrian-only - because of lack of funds (yes, this is happening now)? What roads are being converted to gravel (yes, this is happening, too)? In some cases, it may be a good thing to do so. Perhaps we need to move faster towards replacing at least most of the gas tax with a vehicle miles tax, where users of the road pay a certain percentage, say 80%, of the cost to maintain it, with the other 20% coming from all taxpayers, who benefit from that road, such as for trucks delivering our products to stores.

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