Public Interest Transportation Forum -              

Sound Transit's Proposition 1 Doubles Transportation Sales Taxes

by John Niles

Prop 1 in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties amounts to more than a doubling of local transportation sales tax.

Following is a complete explanation from two different perspectives:

Sound Transit's sales tax is now 4/10th of one percent, approved in the 1996 regional transit election to fund -- among other projects -- the Central Link Light Rail line from NE 45th Street in Seattle's University District all the way to South 200th Street more than a mile past SeaTac Airport. 

Just a portion of that light rail line is under construction, and said to be opening for customer service in 2009. 

In 1996, Sound Transit promised that this sales tax could be partially rolled back after ten years by voters if they didn't like the regional transit performance results they would have seen through 2007.

Now it is 2008 and Regional Proposition 1 attempts for the second time within one year to renew this sales tax and more than double it, to 9/10th of one percent.  4/10th in 1996 plus 5/10th if Prop 1 passes equals 9/10th of one percent.

In 2007, Prop 1 the first time was defeated 56% to 44%.

Here is another perspective:  In King County, Metro Transit by itself already collects 9/10th of one percent sales tax.

Because Prop 1 explicitly reauthorizes Sound Transit's overall 1996 sales tax, Prop 1 in King County amounts to a doubling of transportation sales tax overall -- from 0.9 percent to Metro Transit alone, to 1.8 percent for transportation purposes overall, half to Metro and the other half to Sound Transit.

Click here for supplemental information,  October 12, 2008:  Jim MacIsaac provides updated assessment of the Sound Transit Financial Plan

The Snohomish County transit tax outside of City of Everett is equal to King County Metro's, so the doubling described here applies there as well.  Pierce County Transit and City of Everett Transit impose only a 0.6% transit sales tax, so the increase in those jurisdictions with the reauthorization and expansion of Sound Transit sales taxes is from 0.6 percent to 1.5 percent, also more than a doubling of overall transportation taxes.

Bottom line: in the three counties of the central Puget Sound region, Prop 1 more than doubles Sound Transit's sales taxes, and at least doubles overall transportation sales taxes.

Click here for an estimated schedule of $107 billion in Prop 1 tax collections

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