The council members' two primary concerns: Ensuring that city and county councils can pass a vehicle license fee or one-percent motor-vehicle excise tax, the two most likely funding sources, without going out to a vote of the people (or "councilmanically"), and fixing a glitch in the proposal that would bar overlapping jurisdictions---for example, King County and Seattle---from both passing measures to pay for transportation. (The measure, as PubliCola reported last week, could bar Seattle, for example, from passing an MVET if King County passed a vehicle license fee first).
Regarding the first concern, council member Sally Bagshaw, who visited with both Republican and Democratic legislators Monday, says she came away convince that legislators will probably be willing to give cities new taxing or fee-imposing authority, but that they will want any new taxes or fees to go to a vote of the people.
"I do believe that there is support in Olympia for local authority, if it goes to the ballot," Bagshaw says. "I don't think there's an appetite to give us councilmanic authority [to pass a tax or fee] without going to the ballot." The last time Seattle put a transportation measure on the ballot, with 2011's Proposition 1, the measure failed overwhelmingly, 61 to 39.
Council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen says the state may agree to allow the city to pass a new transportation fee without a public vote, on the condition that the city council---like the King County Council, which passed a $20 vehicle license fee to preserve Metro transit service last year---do so only with a supermajority (six-member) vote.
Council members were more optimistic about the second priority, saying that legislators seemed open to compromise language that would allow Metro to pass an MVET to preserve bus service while handing over a portion of the MVER proceeds to the city to pay for maintenance and transit mobility improvements.
"The governor is concerned about what she calls 'stacking,' or piling one fee on another,"Rasmussen says. "We would like some ability to raise additional funds for transportation. However, we're open to the idea that the city could be credited or given a portion of the one-percent MVET.
"My concern," Rasmussen continues, "is to make sure that the county gets that one-percent MVET." Metro's current $20 vehicle license fee, which passed last year, expires after just two years.