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New transit tax? Who knew?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Feb. 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm with 6 Comments »
February 12, 2010 3:17 pm

Shame on me for not being aware of it until now, but a fairly significant vehicle license fee is sailing through the Legislature without a whole lot of public attention or debate.

House Bill 2855 would empower local public transit boards to enact $20 annual license-tab fees for four years without voter approval. The state House of Representatives looks poised to pass early next week; it then goes to the Senate.

Andrew Austin – an advocate and member of the pro-transit Transportation Choices Coalition – says the measure would help Pierce Transit and its counterparts in other counties get through a funding crisis. Pierce Transit, he says, now faces the possibility of cutting back its bus service as much as 50 percent because of the recession-driven drop in sales taxes.

Tim Eyman, who made his name demolishing Washington’s license-tab fees with Initiative 695, is predictably vitriolic. As he sees it, the voters’ first line of defense against unwanted taxes is requiring that tax measures be put up for a vote. Absent that, the second line of defense is letting voters hold elected officials accountable for imposing taxes by either re-electing them or throwing them out office.

But transit officials, he said, are “unelected bureaucrats” who can’t be held directly accountable for enacting taxes.

On that point, Eyman is both right and wrong. Pierce Transit’s nine-member board of commissioners is composed of elected officials. But they were elected in other capacities – Marilyn Strickland as mayor of Tacoma, for example, and Tim Farrell of the Pierce County Council. They are accountable to the voters in their elected positions, not as transit officials per se.

“It’s the definition of taxation without representation,” says Eyman, with characteristic understatement.

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. I would like to throw them all out of office starting inside the mansion

  2. jimkingjr says:

    Who knew? I cannot help but think that Joe Turner would have caught this.

  3. Well, lets see who gets the legislative bump-benefit here with this bill – for example:

    . . . .
    In these challenging economic times, many transit agencies find themselves struggling to meet the needs of the communities they serve. It is the intent of the legislature to provide these transit agencies with a temporary tool that can help address their revenue shortfalls during this economic crisis, and to establish a statewide plan that will guide future investments in public transportation.
    . . . .

    H.R.B. 2855 (1st Substitute) 2010 Leg. 61st Reg. Sess. (Wash. 2010) available at

    So, my question is this: How many state and local and other exempt licensed vehicles are registered within the State of Washington; it follows, what license fee is paid by each to put wheels-on-roadway (just the number and total cost please because with industry of education training we can do the simple division required)?

    This B. 2855 supports public transportation everywhere; as a result, when are government(s) owned, operated, and other exempt licensed vehicles going to be sold-off or removed from government or exempt ownership and road operation? What is good for the public and its suggested use benefit—using public transit systems should be equally satisfactory and equally good for the needs of government(s) governance today and tomorrow.

  4. bigbarb43 says:

    One can’t help but be frustrated with elected officials. The citizens pass inititatives to curb, reduce or control the spending of their tax dollars and then we are stabbed in the back by the very same officials we elect to represent us. Olympia knows the only way they can bypass the ire of the voters is too pass bills like this so that in the end their name isn’t on the bill that ends up costing us more money.
    I say NO! If the law makers think this is so important, let the ones who end up paying have the final decision!

  5. I can only say this add’s to the anger and frustration, that many of us voters in washington, are feeling right now. Good-bye to all the democrats that voted for the measures to amend what, we your boss’s put in place for a REASON!!.

    You will all be voted out!! if not called on for impeachment.

  6. Novelist2 says:

    Why do these transit people need more money?
    Did they just not waste billions on useless light-rail that only serves to give any benefit to bums and seattle-seatac riders?
    Did they just not waste millions on a useless “Orca” card system?
    Why do they need even more money to waste?

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