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Political Smell Test: Dahlquist says Bunney pushed biggest tax increase

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on June 17, 2010 at 9:10 am | 6 Comments »
June 18, 2010 2:55 pm

Cathy Dahlquist is making the 2007 roads-and-transit Proposition 1 an issue in her campaign for the Legislature.

Her opponent and fellow Republican, Shawn Bunney, backed the $18 billion transportation ballot measure. It would have raised sales taxes and car tab fees in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties to pay for highways and rail, but voters defeated it.

In a news release, she says:

Dahlquist noted that her opponent, Pierce County Councilman Shawn Bunney, was a driving force behind the largest tax increase proposal in County history, the RTID tax package of 2007.

“Pierce County voters in the 31st District opposed Bunney’s proposal for a $16.9 billion tax increase by a margin of 61%,” said Dahlquist. “People are tired of politicians losing sight of our priorities and just raising our taxes.”

Yes, Proposition 1 was described at the time as the largest proposed tax increase in state (and therefore county) history. The complicated part is that less than half of it, a still-huge $6.9 billion for roads, came from the RTID (Regional Transportation Investment District), whose board was chaired by Bunney.

The rest, $10.8 billion, was for Sound Transit projects. The Legislature required the two be tied together on the ballot. A year later, voters approved a larger transit proposal, standing alone.

The 2007 measure would have raised the sales tax by 0.6 percent – about $150 per year for the average household by one measure – and the annual tax on vehicles by 0.8 percent.

Bunney said building roads, like a Highway 167 extension from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, would have been an “investment for jobs in Pierce County.”

He said: “To frame it in any other way, I think would be disingenuous. Maybe my opponent is confused because she has a lack of experience in the relationship of roads and what they’ ll do in our economy. Maybe she’s OK with sending our jobs and our tax dollars to Seattle.”

Dahlquist, an Enumclaw school board member, hit Bunney in the same news release for supporting a pay raise for county council members:

Dahlquist questioned the fiscal responsibility of Bunney’s votes to increase spending, even when County revenues were down.

“Mr. Bunney was even brazen enough to vote himself a 21% pay increase,” said Dahlquist. “At a time when most regular people are fighting to keep or find a job.”

Bunney did indeed vote for a pay raise for the county executive that triggered corresponding raises for county council members of 21 percent. He was able to claim one for himself since he had just won re-election.

It’s worth noting that the raises came in November 2006, well before the recession sent county revenues plummeting.

Bunney said: “It’s misleading for someone to suggest that that vote occurred today. It was five years ago under very different economic conditions.”

Democrat Peggy Levesque is also running for the seat, vacated by GOP Rep. Dan Roach.

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