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King County proposes sales tax, vehicle fee to prevent deep cuts to Metro Transit

King County leaders hope voters will approve a ballot measure that would raise $130 million in funding to prevent deep cuts to metro transit and to fund much-needed road improvement projects. (Photo: File)

With a statewide transportation package stalled in Olympia, King County leaders gathered Tuesday to propose a local solution that would raise an estimated $130 million a year to prevent deep cuts to Metro Transit and fund much-needed road improvement projects.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said the measure would create a Transportation Benefit District, which would be funded by a $60 vehicle fee and a one-tenth of a cent sales tax increase.

According to the county, the impact to the average household would be just over $11 a month.

“We are out of time for a statewide bill that includes a local transportation solution,” Constantine said at a press conference Tuesday. “We have long sought action from our legislature to address these critical needs, including the local tools to pay for buses and roads. We waited, and we waited, and now time is up.”

Under the proposal, 60-percent of revenue generated would go to preserving Metro bus service, while 40-percent would be allocated to maintaining local roads.

The proposal also calls for a 25-cent fare increase for Metro riders in 2015 and a reduced fare of $1.50 for qualifying, low-income riders.

“Five fare increases in eight years are bound to have a disparate impact on those of limited means,” Constantine said. “Public transportation must be affordable to be effective. This proposal would ensure better mobility for lower income workers, students and others.”

Should transportation funding not be passed, the county said 74 Metro routes would be eliminated within months, with another 107 revised or reduced. Additionally, 35 bridges would be at risk of closure over the next 25 years and 75 miles of roadway would “fail without maintenance or reconstruction.”

Constantine made it clear that the county would prefer action on the state level, rather than a local ballot measure.

“Our first choice remains a statewide package that is fair and that is well balanced,” he said. “But we cannot responsibly wait another year in the hope that the legislature will act.”

The proposal would go before voters in April.

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