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Dispatch from Olympia: Fighting for Transit
Last Thursday, the House Transportation Committee held work session on Sound Transit and the implementation of ST3. While no specific bills were discussed, the backdrop of the work session was recent public concern over new ST3 car tab fees and a few bills that had been introduced in response.
The Senate recently held its own work-session around Sound Transit – exploring bills that would roll back voter-approved taxes and restructure Sound Transit governance, resulting in a delay of implementation and ignoring the will of the voters to expand and improve our region’s mass transit system. We discussed these bills in our recent blog post Dispatch from Olympia: Bills Will Delay Sound Transit.
To add additional political context and nuance, check out Heidi Groover’s article in The Stranger “Why are Democrats in Olympia Helping Republicans Undermine Sound Transit?”
Last November, when 54% of the electorate in the Sound Transit District approved ST3 to connect our communities with high-capacity transit, three taxing sources were approved, including an Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) which levies taxes on the value of an individual's vehicle and is widely regarded as one of the more progressive tax sources available in the state of Washington. Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, have vigorously and unfairly attacked Sound Transit and ST3 based on this tax increase.
But back to the House Transportation work session last week...
The work session panel included Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit’s CEO, Brian McCartan, Sound Transit CFO, who both provided an overview of ST3 and the agency’s financials, as well as the bonding structure. Additional panelists included representatives from Pierce and Snohomish Counties who explained why business, civic, and community leaders from Everett to Tacoma supported ST3. You can watch the work session here: http://www.tvw.org/watch/?eventID=2017031178.
In preparation for the work session, we asked the Transportation Choices community to reach out to their legislators and remind them how important high-capacity transit is to the growth of our region. Nearly a thousand messages were sent by people like you to express support for ST3 and opposition to legislation that would delay or dismantle voter-approved ST3 projects. Several members at the work session mentioned the high volume of ST3-supportive emails they’d received, and they reminded decision-makers that not only do the majority of voters in the Sound Transit District support ST3, but want projects delivered on time – or sooner.
On a federal note, last week the Trump Administration released its proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget. It included alarming set of deep cuts across many programs, including the elimination of important transit grant programs including Small Starts and the TIGER Grant program. We released a statement the next day:
Washington State has benefited tremendously from these programs. Recent projects such as the Angle Lake light rail extension, Tacoma Link expansion and the Mukilteo Multi-modal Ferry Terminal, all received TIGER funding. The proposed budget will significantly impact regional rail, bus rapid transit and other important transit projects from Seattle to Spokane.
Please contact your federal representatives and urge them to stand up for our transportation infrastructure that keeps our region moving forward. We will be working with regional and federal partners to stop these drastic cuts.
You can contact your legislators with this easy Action Alert from TCC partner, Transportation for America. We urge you to remind your federal representatives to stand up for transit. We will keep you updated as the budgetary process develops and will connect when we need to harness the power of our collective voices to support transit.