Afternoon Jolt: City of Seattle Loses in Olympia, Again

By Afternoon Jolt March 24, 2011

Today's winner: The University of Washington

The senate transportation committee gave a break to the UW this afternoon on the city's commercial parking tax. Under an amendment to the senate transportation budget sponsored by Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), the city would be barred from raising the commercial parking tax past its current level of 12.5 percent, and the city would be required to give a 50 percent break on the tax to the University of Washington—something the university has been fighting for (unsuccessfully) all session.

A bill that died earlier this year, opposed by the city, would have exempted the university from the tax entirely, costing the city $3 million a year.

Simple math would suggest a 50 percent exemption would cost the city $1.5 million a year.

According to King's amendment, the city could get out of extending a break to the UW by giving up all of its funding from the state's regional mobility grant program, a competitive transportation grant program that will fund $40 million in projects statewide over the next two years. Essentially, King's amendment holds the city's mobility grants hostage to the UW tax break.

King has not returned a call for a comment.

House leaders already went after the city's regional mobility grant money yesterday, passing a transportation budget with an amendment that handed funding slated for  a new transit priority corridor from Ballard to the University District over to commuter trains from Lakewood to Seattle.

Representatives from the city were just finding out about the amendment and did not want to comment. UW Transportation Services director Josh Kavanagh has not returned a call for comment.
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