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Dispatch from Olympia: Senate Hearing on ST3

Posted by Carla Chavez at Mar 28, 2017 08:07 PM |
Yesterday,Washington State Senate held a public hearing on Sound Transit-related bills.

Yesterday, the Washington State Senate held a public hearing on Sound Transit-related bills that could have major implications for Sound Transit 3 implementation. We testified on the bills that were recently introduced. To catch up on this story, check out our previous Dispatches. The new bills that we testified on are detailed below.

Watch Ricardo, our Policy Director, give public testimony here (1:35). During his testimony, Ricardo presented a letter from our coalition partners expressing support for Sound Transit 3 and opposition to any legislation that would delay or cancel voter-approved projects. You can read the letter here.

We are now over half way through the legislative session and we have been busy protecting our hard-won policies and transportation investments. Thank you so much for your continued support -- we will continue to need your help protecting the timelines and projects that voters approved last fall.

Now on to the new bills:

SB 5892: Concerning regional transit authority capital project reauthorization. TCC is opposed to SB 5892. This bill would require Sound Transit to seek re-authorization of voter-approved taxes if the agency is 20% over budget within two years of beginning construction. With new uncertainty around federal funding, this bill would add an additional layer of instability that would threaten the ability of Sound Transit to deliver important voter-approved projects. Under this bill, a number of projects could begin construction and wind up partially completed, which would be a waste of taxpayer money. This is poor public policy that threatens complicated and critically important capital programs.

SB 5893: Concerning the administration of motor vehicle excise taxes by regional transit authorities. TCC is opposed to SB 5893. This bill would require Sound Transit to immediately transition the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) to a car valuation schedule based on Kelley Blue Book/National Automobile Dealer’s Association. If Sound Transit does not immediately transition, the Department of Licensing would not be allowed to collect MVET on the agency’s behalf. Voters approved of a .8% increase in the MVET as a portion of the funding for Sound Transit 3. Sound Transit already collected .3% MVET as a part of previous voter-approved measures. This legislation would have major impacts delivering on Sound Transit 3 projects resulting in up to $6 billion in lost revenue.

The press coverage on this issue has been misleading and incomplete, skewing public perception on Sound Transit. Voters approved these taxes in November 2016 because they support the projects that will connect their communities. We will continue to monitor this issue to ensure that these voter-approved projects are not imperiled. 

SB 5905: Concerning taxpayer relief for persons subject to a motor vehicle excise tax imposed by a regional transit authority. TCC has no position on SB 5905. This bill would require that bonds after January 1, 2017, be based on the 2006 MVET depreciation schedule, instead of the 1996 schedule. A depreciation schedule is a table that shows the how much a vehicle depreciates over time. Sound Transit basis its taxes on this schedule. We need more details on the financial impact to Sound Transit before we take a position on this bill.

SB 5906: Establishing a regional transit authority rebate program for low-income individuals. TCC is supportive, with concerns. This bill would establish a rebate program that Sound Transit may use to provide up to a 40 percent rebate on MVET and/or property taxes paid to Sound Transit by low-income residents. We have supported similar programs in the past, and would like more information on the financial impacts on projects before taking a more certain position.

Actions you can take:

Two weeks ago, we asked you to send a message to the House state legislators in the Sound Transit 3 taxing district and you did! Nearly 900 people in the Sound Transit district took action within a few days. Legislators even mentioned these messages during the House’ public hearing on March 16th.  If you’d like to take action, you can comment on each legislation by clicking on the individual links on the bill names or you can contact your State Representative by looking up your district here.

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