Thursday, March 10, 2011

Legislation for long term transit funding introduced in Legislature

A Transportation for Washington Press Release Sent out a Few Minutes Ago:
Legislation for long term transit funding introduced in Legislature
Local Transit Act would provide more funding choices and more transit for Washington residents

OLYMPIA – Legislation was introduced today in the Washington state Senate and House to provide long-term local funding for more transit.

Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Scott White (D-Seattle) and in the House by Rep. Marko Liias (D-Edmonds), the Local Transit Act (SB5874, HB2016) would provide local transit agencies the ability to pursue voter-approved funding for transit. The bill would allow local transit agencies to select from a variety of local, equitable tax sources.

“Times are tough for everyone, but we can’t allow our local transit service to become the latest victim of this economic collapse,” said Liias, the prime sponsor of the bill in the House. “It is time to think creatively to ensure everyone in our community has transportation choices. With this bill we can let local voters decide how to provide good transit and strong communities.”

Currently transit agencies receive approximately 70 percent of their revenue from local sales tax revenue and, besides fare box charges, are prohibited from securing additional local sources. With sales taxes revenue being volatile and falling short due to the recession, it is not a viable long-term revenue source for transit. As sales tax revenue declines, transit agencies across the state are facing 15 to 35 percent service cuts.

“Transit agencies in our state are cutting services at the worst possible time,” said White, the prime sponsor of the Senate bill. “The Senate recently passed legislation that provides King County with a local option funding tool which will help fund Metro Transit. This measure will help in the short-term, but in the long-term, transit agencies in Washington face a funding crisis and will not be able to keep up with demand, especially as gas prices continue to rise. The Local Transit Act would provide local options for sustainable, voter approved funding solutions that would give our communities the transit they want and depend on every day.”

A state report issued earlier this year concluded that the sales tax was inadequate for transit agencies to remain solely dependent on and that the state needed to provide new funding options as a viable long-term solution. (Identifying the State Role in Public Transportation Final Report - January 2011)

The Local Transit Act would provide local transit agencies the ability to pursue voter-approved funding for transit, and would allow local transit agencies to select from a variety of local equitable, tax sources. Before any tax could be levied, it must be approved by the voters in the agency’s jurisdiction.

The potential tax sources available would be:

· Progressive Motor Vehicle Excise Tax based on vehicle value
· Vehicle License Fee based on annual mileage
· Fuel Efficiency-based Tax that rewards clean and efficient vehicles
· Allowing the local sales tax to be applied to gasoline

“It’s important for local businesses to be able to count on a well connected, integrated transportation system that includes convenient transit for their customers and employees,” said Jamie Cheney, Executive Director of Commute Seattle. “It’s getting harder and harder for people to afford to commute via car, with parking and gas prices going up. Workers and employers need more transit and giving local communities the power to decide for themselves is just common sense.”

The Local Transit Act is one component of the Transportation for Washington campaign, a statewide coalition which seeks investment and comprehensive transportation reform that will create jobs, give people more transportation options, effectively move freight and clean our air and water.

“Finding long term funding options for transit alone isn’t going to solve the transportation problem in our state. In addition to providing local transit funding, Transportation for Washington will be advocating for major investments in our entire transportation system, from crumbling roads to freight corridors and ferries,” said Viet Shelton, campaign director for Transportation for Washington. “It’s the only way we will be able to get all of Washington moving forward.”

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Transportation for Washington is a multi-year, statewide campaign that lays a new vision for Washington around protecting our air and water, fixing what’s broken, expanding transit choices, and building great, healthy communities. The campaign is led by Futurewise and Transportation Choices Coalition and is supported by a coalition of more than 55 public officials, businesses, labor unions, and environmental, faith, health, and neighborhood organizations.

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