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Sound Transit Board raises property tax after voters demand tax relief in 976

The Sound Transit board discusses possible sites for its new maintenance facility. (Sound Transit)

While the public was distracted by the court battle over I-976, the $30 tabs initiative that voters approved in November, the Sound Transit Board of Directors voted 14-2 to pass a new tax.

The 1-percent property tax applies to all homeowners and property owners in the Sound Transit Taxing District, which is comprised of the western portions of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties.

Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County executive and Sound Transit Board member, was one of two board members who voted against the tax increase, the other being University Place Mayor and Sound Transit Board Vice Chair Kent Keel.

Dammeier and Keel argued that the results of 976 — which passed by 32 percentage points in Pierce County and 16 percentage points in Snohomish County — clearly showed that people felt Sound Transit taxes were bleeding them dry.

“I thought that was a great opportunity for the board to at least show that they were hearing, to some degree, the frustration in our taxpayers,” Dammeier told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “And unfortunately, it didn’t prevail.”

Why a Sound Transit member voted for $30 tabs

The Sound Transit Board of Directors is made up of mayors, city councilmembers, county executives, and county councilmembers from the agency’s taxing district.

This new tax increase will bring in an extra $1.3 million for the transit agency. Dammeier said that it is a small amount compared to the billions gained through sales tax, motor vehicle excise taxes, and car tab taxes, but is still real money for families trying to get by.

“Where I’m from, $1.3 million is a lot of money,” he said. “Up there, it’s not as much money.”

Because of how strongly Pierce County voted for $30 tabs, Dammeier said that his county will be intervening to support the will of the taxpayers in the lawsuit against 976, currently on hold with the Washington State Supreme Court.

“I have had people who voted against the initiative thank me for defending the will of the voters,” he said. “Even though the vote didn’t go their way, they wanted the will of the voters to prevail.”

He feels it is his duty to represent his region on the board, even though he is frequently in the minority.

“Serving on that board is challenging for me at many points, as you might imagine,” he said. “But I can tell you that I get a lot of appreciation from people down in my community who say that they appreciate me being that voice on their board, even though that voice rarely prevails.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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