The Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), the organization created by voters last year to draft a monorail plan, is finally starting to explore funding options. Though the estimated costs for the proposed route (Ballard to downtown to West Seattle) won't be available for a few weeks, the ETC is currently working out the details of a financial plan to sell voters and the Washington State Legislature on a Seattle monorail.

The ETC's funding plan is to create a monorail public corporation run by Seattle voters. Similar to Sound Transit or Safeco Field's Public Facilities District (PFD), the monorail corporation would have the ability to take on debt and collect taxes. However, unlike Sound Transit and the PFD, the monorail corporation would be financially independent from state and city government, and would tax only Seattle residents. (Sound Transit collects taxes from King, Pierce, and Snohomish County residents.) The public corporation would most likely collect taxes by raising either property taxes, car registration fees, or the business-and-occupation tax. The taxing specifics won't be worked out until later this year, when the cost estimates and the Environmental Impact Statement (i.e., how the monorail route will affect pollution, noise levels, etc.) are completed. Based on the monorail's popularity in Seattle, it's likely voters will approve the public corporation plan. However, convincing the state legislature may not be as easy.

In order to have taxing authority, the ETC first has to get the green light from the state. Judging by the current political climate in Olympia and the legislature's inability to pass a transportation plan, the ETC has a tough fight ahead of them. "The monorail is very unpopular outside of Seattle," says State Representative Ed Murray (D-43rd), who represents Capitol Hill, the U-District, and downtown, and sits on the House Transportation Committee. "The Republicans view anything having to do with taxes as a tax increase. That's the mentality down there," he says. In addition, though the monorail plan is on schedule, Murray feels the ETC waited too long to introduce itself and make its case to the state. "They've got to educate the state legislators more," says Murray. "I support the monorail and will fight for it, but the ETC has had all year to talk to legislators, and unfortunately, they're just doing it now. They're at a disadvantage."

ETC Executive Director Harold Robertson acknowledges the slow pace, but claims the monorail plan wasn't far enough along to court politicians. "It's late, but we just weren't ready until now," says Robertson. The final monorail public corporation proposal and route cost estimates should be done by mid-January, and to help make their case in Olympia, the ETC is hiring a lobbyist this week.