Legislation that would have given cities and counties more options to pay for transit service died this session, and King County Executive Dow Constantine places the blame squarely on legislators for failing, three years in a row, to expand the transit options available to local governments.

The proposal would have allowed counties to impose a local-option gas tax; allowed transportation benefit districts (Seattle is one) to impose a vehicle license fee of up to $40 (currently, both Seattle and King County charge a VLF of $20); and allowed counties to charge a motor-vehicle excise tax of up to 1 percent. Most transit service in the state is funded by sales taxes, which are regressive and fluctuate with the economy.

"“The Legislature’s inaction keeps bus riders in a state of uncertainty," Constantine said in a statement. "Sustainable funding for transit is needed within two years, after expiration of the temporary Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC) that was enacted after a groundswell of public support. Passage of the CRC allowed Metro to defer devastating cuts to the Metro system that would have affected the commutes of four out of five riders."

Metro has it better than many transit agencies, at least temporarily: King County's was the only transit agency the legislature authorized to charge a $20 fee to keep transit service at existing levels. Both Pierce and Community Transit have cut back service levels by more than a third.
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