On Monday, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill allowing the King County Council authorizing a two-year, $20 vehicle license fee to help forestall some Metro service cuts. However, as we've reported, the county council likely won't have the six-member council majority required by the legislation to pass the fee without a public vote.

Right now, only three members of the county council, all Democrats, appear to be definite "yes" votes on a councilmanic vote to approve the fee: Larry Gossett, Larry Phillips, and Joe McDermott. Democrat Bob Ferguson has expressed hesitation about the fee, and Democrat Julia Patterson tells PubliCola, "I haven't made up my mind yet" about whether to support the fee at all.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a public vote---which requires the support of a simple majority, or five members, of the county council---is also looking less and less likely. Even if Patterson gets behind a public vote, Ferguson has said he isn't sure a vote is appropriate. And King County Executive Dow Constantine has expressed doubts about whether a public vote is the right way to go.

Constantine's advisor Sung Yang says the county executive isn't necessarily opposed to a public vote, but is focused now on passing a fee through the council.

Without Constantine's support, the fee would have, at most, the support of a bare majority of the county council, putting any campaign for the measure in an even tougher position than it already would be. The fee would, at best, only forestall about 250,000 hours of Metro service cuts, compared to a potential 600,000 hours that would be cut over the next four years without the fee. It is, in other words, a stopgap measure, not a solution, and that's a hard thing to articulate (and make palatable) at a time when riders across the county are seeing their bus service slashed.
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