McGinn Proposes Bond Measure, Commercial Parking Tax Hike

By Erica C. Barnett June 8, 2010

Mayor Mike McGinn and Hall Walker from the city's budget office.

This post has been updated with comments from city council transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen.

Mayor Mike McGinn proposed a funding plan to pay for the city's portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and seawall replacement project that features his (already proposed) bond measure to pay for the seawall replacement, a 2.5 percent increase in the existing commercial parking tax, and a local improvement district, in which business owners who benefit from the viaduct replacement would pay additional property tax to help pay for it.

The city council would have to approve the seawall ballot measure by August to put it on the ballot by November, or by December to put it on the ballot by February. In his office after the mayor's briefing, council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen said the council's main concern with the mayor's initial proposal to put the seawall on a citywide ballot in May was that it would require a costly special election and wasn't well-thought-out. Now, he says, a November ballot measure may be possible.

Asked whether the city council---which previously declined to put the seawall proposal on the August ballot, as McGinn initially proposed---had had a change of heart, McGinn said this morning, "We've had numerous discussions with [council] staff since January on this, and we've reached consensus on accelerating the design elements and accelerating the construction. ... Council president Conlin said they were committed to working with us."

The council would also have to approve increasing the commercial parking tax, something Rasmussen seemed more reluctant to embrace, and implementing an LID, which has long been in the works.

Regarding the commercial parking tax increase, Rasmussen said, "People in the community, especially the business community, are extremely concerned about increasing taxes, especially taxes that affect businesses." However, Rasmussen acknowledged that commercial parking tax revenues have been coming in higher than expected this year, indicating that higher taxes (which are passed on to consumers) have not deterred people from parking in commercial lots.

McGinn also confirmed that the intent of his proposed Transit Master Plan, which council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen has proposed stalling until the council can sign off on its scope, is to come up with a proposal to build light rail to West Seattle and Ballard. "I think [light rail] should be an element of it," McGinn said. "If the intention of the council---and I sincerely hope it's not---if the intention of the council is to narrow the options of what we're studying to preclude certain options, I think that would be a mistake."

McGinn also said that he only plans to fund the Transit Master Plan out of the 2007 Bridging the Gap levy for one year. Some Bridging the Gap Oversight Committee members expressed concern about spending Bridging the Gap dollars on transit planning when funding for bike, pedestrian, and other transportation needs is in short supply.
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