Proposition 1 proposes the biggest local tax increase in Washington state, ever.
Prop 1 more than doubles — even triples — the car license tab tax. And doubles its part of the regressive local sales tax. Prop 1 extends taxes from 1996 that voters were originally promised the option to reduce after 2006. With Prop 1, both new and old taxes now last forever.
The tax bite is staggering: $157 billion over the next 50 years alone. That averages almost $2,000 per year for most households for the next half century. By comparison, voters in Seattle said no to the Monorail when its taxes ballooned to “just” $11 billion over a similar time period.
Prop 1 is not a balanced plan. Only 10 percent funds roads. And only a fraction of that goes toward fixing dangerous bridges and crumbling freeways. Nearly 90 percent funds Sound Transit — which moves about 1 percent of all trips. With or without this plan, traffic congestion will still double by 2028 according to Sound Transit’s own documentation.
Prop 1 joins two bad plans: an expensive, inefficient transit system (ST2) and an under-funded roads component (RTID). Most of the money funds Seattle-centered transit projects. Many of the roads projects contain nothing more than a small down-payment toward desperately needed repairs or replacements. For example, there is only partial funding for safety improvements and repairs to the U.S. 2 trestle. And, surprisingly, Prop 1 funds reconstruction of only 1 of 34 of our region’s unsafe bridges.
In 1996, Sound Transit promised completion of its Ten-Year Plan within budget by 2006. So what has happened since then? There are billions in cost overruns, the schedule is at least 10 years behind, transit use is declining as a percentage of travel and traffic congestion is increasing. Additionally, Sound Transit is at least two years away from reaching the airport, which it promised to do by last year. So why would we give Sound Transit any more taxing authority until they complete what they promised us in 1996?
One of the great weaknesses of Prop 1 is that both the Sound Transit and RTID boards are not directly elected by the people. Therefore, they do not answer directly to the taxpayers. The Sound Transit area is only a portion of Snohomish County, and RTID is less than the entire county, so we end up with fragmented taxing districts that deny any clear representation to all the citizens in Snohomish County. Both the Sound Transit and RTID parts of Prop 1 make project promises that can be changed or later scrapped by their respective unelected boards, thus sabotaging any direct accountability to the public.
The Sierra Club and many environmental groups are opposed to Prop 1 because it makes global warming worse, relies too heavily on regressive taxes, and costs too much.
There are better alternatives to Prop 1 that are less expensive, decades earlier to deploy, and just plain smarter.
Simply put, Prop 1 costs too much, and does so little. That’s why so many people are voting “no” on Prop 1.
Gary Nelson is a member of the Snohomish County Council. Mark Baerwaldt is with NoToProp1.Org (www.notoprop1.org).