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Kemper Freeman not a fan of the proposal for Sound Transit 3
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State senator taking flak for questioning Sound Transit 3 tax package

Sound Transit 3 aims to build a light rail line to Ballard if funding is approved. (Sound Transit)

Washington State Senator Reuven Carlyle is known among Democratic circles, but he raised eyebrows when he questioned Sound Transit 3.

Carlyle recently wrote on his blog:

The idea from some social media comments that I’m “anti-transit” because I had the chutzpah to publicly ask serious financial questions about how we raise $54 billion is ridiculous.

Carlyle stresses that he is not against the goals of Sound Transit 3 — a tax package that voters will approve or deny this November. Rather, he is not in favor of the proposed funding methods in the plan.

“I am not opposing it in the sense that I am leading a charge or holding campaigns,” Carlyle told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz. “I am withholding my endorsement. I feel the financing of the $54 billion plan needs a lot more work. Unfortunately, the use of the property tax for transportation, for the first time for Sound Transit, is a problem.”

Related: Where Sound Transit wants to put future light rail

It’s not the first time the state senator has brought up the issue. He said that he fought this form of funding for Sound Transit in Olympia, but failed.

“I have to be true to my district and express those reservations even though my areas of Ballard and Queen Anne get a lot of benefits,” he said. “I want the public to have a much more rigorous conversation about how we fund $54 billion.”

But raising those questions garnered online chiding from fellow Democrats and those in favor of Sound Transit’s aims to expand transit throughout the region.

Sound Transit 3 would build more light rail in the Puget Sound area, and fund bus transportation, among other things.

“There’s no question there is some push back,” Carlyle said. “We have a right to a rigorous conversation and analyze the numbers. Bertha — the deep bore tunnel — is a $1.2 billion investment. That seems almost quaint compared to a $54 billion investment. Getting it right matters.”

“Of course, I like the spending and investment in my community,” he said. “But I have a deep discomfort with a $54 billion financing plan that has not met a decent level of rigor and responsibility … I’m not telling people to vote no, I’m just stepping up to the plate.”

“There’s a lot of passion and Seattle is desperate to get out of traffic,” he added.

Sound Transit 3 and business

Carlyle told Rantz that he had previously brought up other funding methods for Sound Transit, such as tolling, but people are not listening. He particularly wants to bring the region’s largest employers into the conversation. He said there is a “nexus of value” for them to have transportation for their employees.

“Sound Transit was not open to that conversation,” Carlyle said. “They were not enthusiastic about having it. I think that’s unfortunate.”

“We need the business community as a partner to make this work,” he said. “I don’t think you can just ask a retired grandma in Ballard, or a low-income person to pay sales tax and not involve our major employers in a partnership.”

Carlyle said that Sound Transit is only following what’s best for its financial interest as an organization and pursuing more secured funding. But he, as a lawmaker, is pursuing what is best as someone elected to manage tax dollars.

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