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Dispatch from Olympia: Protecting Voter Approved Projects

Posted by Carla Chavez at Jan 25, 2018 02:05 PM |

Yesterday, the TCC team testified in Senate Transportation Committee hearings for SB 5955, SB 6601 and SB 6303. Below is our testimony on each bill.

SB 5955: Concerning the collection of a motor vehicle excise tax approved by voters of a regional transit authority in 2016.

TCC Position: Opposed

While we appreciate efforts to address taxpayer fairness, we do not support this bill in its current form.

We are encouraged by our conversations with legislators and support resolving the MVET policy depreciation schedule WHILE ALSO identifying offsets that ensure voter-approved projects stay on track. We believe it is possible to reduce the $780 million direct revenue gap created by this bill to address the loss of revenue to Sound Transit. We will continue to work closely with legislators to find solutions that will keep Sound Transit funding on track and would be more comfortable with the MVET policy depreciation schedule and the offsets to be addressed in one bill.

It is critical that these voter approved transit projects are not delayed or cancelled due to the loss in revenue from this bill. With uncertainty in funding at the federal level, maintaining the voter approved funding for these projects is essential for the timely delivery of projects. We continue to urge legislators to address these issues without delaying or canceling these voter-approved transit projects.

SB 6303: Establishing a vehicle valuation method for a regional transit authority collecting a motor vehicle excise tax that is based on Kelley blue book or national automobile dealers association values.

TCC Position: Opposed

We are strongly opposed to SB 6303.

This legislation would significantly undermine voter-approved Sound Transit 3 projects,ultimately resulting in the loss of high quality, living wage jobs, and critically important economic development projects that will connect Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. We understand that there is a desire to update the MVET depreciation schedule and support offsets that will ensure the delivery of these projects.

This bill goes too far and directly undermines the will of the voters.

SB 6301: Modifying the election and authority of regional transit authority board members.

TCC Position: Opposed

We support Sound Transit’s current governance structure and believe it has been part of the agency’s success. The structure is currently based on the appointment of elected officials from county and city governments who have stakes in making regional transit work.

We believe it’s important to have locally elected representatives serving on the Sound Transit Board where there is a nexus between planning for local government, regional government, and having a regional transportation system that benefits all of us.

Overhauling the governance structure in the middle of the very complex projects that are underway creates a high degree of instability and risk, and adds significant costs to administering the board structure.

Voters made clear that they want transit and they want transit as soon as possible. We encourage this committee to work with us to figure out solutions on how we can move forward these transit projects - and fast.

House passes HB 2201
Also yesterday, the House passed 2201.

This bill would require Sound Transit to provide a tax rebate that is equivalent of the difference between the 1999 and 2006 MVET depreciation schedules for Sound Transit 3. Sound Transit estimates that the bill will result in a $780 million revenue loss to the agency. (Over the long term, the accumulated loss would be about $2 billion due to financing impacts.). This bill also identifies the order in which projects would be impacted for achieving cost savings: parking facility projects, commuter rail, bus projects, and light rail projects.

We do not support efforts to change a voter-approved plan. Sound Transit 3 won 54% of the vote in 2016. However, we are sensitive to issues of tax payer fairness, especially as it relates to low- and middle-income families in the region. TCC is committed to ensuring that Sound Transit receives funding that allows the voter-approved Sound Transit 3 plan to move forward. We are encouraged by the conversations we are having with legislators and will be working with leaders in the Senate to be sure offsets are included in the bill.

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