CHOKEPOINTS

Removing Pierce County from Sound Transit taxing district would be ‘chaotic’

Jan 31, 2017, 11:22 AM | Updated: Feb 1, 2017, 9:26 am
light rail, Sound Transit...
Some Pierce County voters are asking why they are paying additional taxes for light-rail expansion. (WSDOT)
(WSDOT)

Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion tax package to fund light rail and other services, passed in King County, barely passed in Snohomish County, and failed in Pierce County.

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Many Pierce County voters have asked why they should continue to pay for a service when the voters turned down the measure.

The tax package was soundly defeated in Pierce County. The final tally: 56 percent against, 44 percent in support.

Residents of Pierce County have reached out, wondering if they should even be in the Sound Transit taxing district. Their needs, they say, are not being represented. They also don’t think they’re getting anything for their increased taxes.

The short answer: there’s nothing they can do about it. The system was approved by the legislature, and it would require the legislature to break up the taxing district. That’s not going to happen, at least right now.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff says Pierce County is receiving benefits for its contributions.

“The reality is, we are providing mobility to the entire region and I think folks need to remember that the dollars that are raised through the Sound Transit taxes in Pierce County are spent in Pierce County,” he said.

They are using the bus lines and Sounder service, which is very popular from Lakewood to Seattle.

“Sounder’s south service has grown 15 percent in the last year,” Rogoff said. “We’re estimating it’s going to grow another 17 percent next year. That’s everything to do with how bad the congestion is on I-5 coming north.”

Rogoff says there is no way to break up the three county taxing districts because there are outstanding bills and bonds to pay.

“For us to then have to enter into some kind of balkanized system where we have to terminate that service, [and] continue to assess taxes on the voters in Pierce County to pay off the bonds for the millions and millions of dollars we’ve already invested in Pierce County, it would be chaotic,” he said.

And Rogoff worries that pulling out now would hurt Pierce County’s ability to attract new jobs and businesses.

“I don’t see for all the Sound Transit express buses that we run in Pierce County every day; I don’t believe Pierce County or Pierce Transit are in the position to take up the slack and replace all that,” he said. “That will really do a mobility hit to the people in that region.”

As it stands right now, light rail is expected to reach Tacoma in 2030.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @kirortraffic via Twitter.

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Removing Pierce County from Sound Transit taxing district would be ‘chaotic’