Just got word that Gov. Christine Gregoire has vetoed the portion of Senate Bill 5433 that would have given King County Metro the ability to put a $20 car tab fee on the ballot to help fill its estimated $100 million funding shortfall. The fee for transit, if approved by King County voters, would have provided between $25 and $30 million a year for additional bus service.
"At best, this legislation was a partial fix, and now we're going to be coming back next year with a 'no more Mr. Nice Guy' attitude about transit service," says Ron Johnson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition. "We need to make transit as high of a priority as roads in the state legislature."
Gregoire did not say why she was vetoing the funding option in her public statement this morning, nor has the partial veto showed up yet on the governor's bill action page.
King County council chair Dow Constantine said this morning that he was "very disappointed" with the governor's decision. "It's going to exacerbate the significant problems we have with transit funding and make more difficult the choices we have to make." Although a Metro audit found an additional $105 million in the agency's fleet replacement fund to pay for service in the coming year, that's only a onetime windfall; in the longer term, Constantine says, Metro will need a more stable funding source, such as the motor vehicle excise tax, to maintain service. I'm still playing phone tag with council member Larry Phillips, who pushed for the audit (and who, like Constantine, is running for King County Executive). Carolyn Duncan, a spokeswoman for the executive's office, says the loss of the license tab fee will mean cuts either in "quantity or quality"—that is, either reduced spending on "things like shelters, cleaning buses, or security or a reduction in bus hours."