Afternoon Jolt

Monday Jolt: Republicans Denounce Sound Transit Taxing Authority

House committee gives light rail agency taxing authority over GOP objections.

By Josh Feit February 2, 2015

Afternoon Jolt

The house transportation committee, controlled by the majority Democrats, passed key Sound Transit legislation this afternoon.

The bill, which authorizes motor vehicle excise (MVET), sales, and property taxes for light rail, gives the light rail agency the ability to put a sound transit tax measure before voters, likely in 2016. 

"Okay, Seattle, go ahead and tax yourself into oblivion."—Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-20, Kalama)"Allowing Sound Transit to move forward with the third phase," said representative Jake Fey (D-27, Tacoma), "will be a big plus for commuters." (ST3 would extend light rail from SeaTac to Tacoma on the southern end and from Lynwood to Everett to the north.)

The bill passed 13-12 almost strictly along party lines. All but one Democrat voted yea, and every Republican voted no.

"Okay, Seattle" representative Ed Orcutt (R-20, Kalama) said, "go ahead and tax yourself into oblivion."

Six of of the Republicans who voted no—representatives Linda Kochmar, Jesse Young, Mark Hargrove, Jay Rodne, Hans Zeiger, and Mark Harmsworth—represent part of Sound Transit's three-county voting district.

One Democrat voted, representative Jim Moeller (D-49, Vancouver), voted no (see footnote below).

House transportation committee

The real debate is still to come in the Republican-controlled senate. But that debate will certainly be nudged along by today's house committee vote: By passing the light rail bill as stand-alone legislation, light rail takes on more weight as a component of any larger transportation package.

An amendment proposed by Republican representative Orcutt that prevented expanding ST taxing authority to other counties, such as Clark County (where there's been a rancorous debate about light rail crossing the Columbia River into Portland) passed.

That amendment caused Vancouver Democrat Moeller to vote no. 


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