Opinion

Metro tax hike needs greater equity | Other voices

By Will Knedlik

Thoughtful citizens in east and south King County must vote “no” on yet another unfair Metro Transit tax hike — inequitable both for present and potential transit users and also for taxpayers countywide — to remind officials elected here to represent their constituents far more faithfully.

East and south county taxpayers underwrite 35 percent and 30 percent of Metro’s excessive costs, but receive, respectively, only 17 percent and 20 percent of that agency’s essential transportation.

Immense revenues are diverted to subsidize Seattle, thereby leaving insufficient funds to close gaping holes in important transit routes, including pivotal connections long missing between family wage employment in east county and less expensive housing in south county.

Suburban and rural taxpayers provide almost exactly two-thirds of Metro’s resources, despite receiving just over one-third of bus service. This massive transit and taxation inequality is accelerating, presently, as routes outside Seattle are cut repeatedly to safeguard transit there.

The proposed tax hike would not simply fail to resolve this enormous unfairness but, if enacted, would actually worsen gross inequities between transit unavailability already shorting two-thirds of county residents and thereby still greater tax injustice.

At Eastside Transportation Partnership and South County Area Transportation Board meetings, local officials complain regularly that east and south county residents pay too much for transit services and receive too few. Yet, these officeholders fail repeatedly, nonetheless, to represent their constituents as forcefully as those elected in Seattle, leaving suburban and rural taxpayers contributing ever more transit taxes, but receiving proportionally less-and-less public transport.

As the King County Council was specifically informed with great respect — but with like clarity — at the public hearing required for another Metro tax hike on Feb. 24: when two-thirds of county residents are being fleeced to featherbed transit overwhelmingly designed to favor the other one-third, intentionally, resulting inequalities yield far less constructive discussions than if council members would responsibly focus on Metro’s unsustainable operating cost of $155.38 per hour (among the very highest, nationwide, according to National Transit Database records).

Nearly as regrettable as this tax hike proposal’s unfairness to two-thirds of county residents — as transit users and as taxpayers — is a colossal missed opportunity to earn citizen trust through balloting that, instead, squanders the best prospect in decades to add both transit finance stability for everyone reliant thereon and also transit service equity countywide, and thereby wastes Dow Constantine’s important low income fare initiative to rectify growing counterproductivity for transit-dependent residents from endless bus fare increases.

Solutions are possible but, sadly, thinking citizens must first say “no” on April 22 to Proposition 1, including Seattleites who recognize gross tax injustice as unsustainable at least since mid-1776.

Will Knedlik is chairman of Eastside Transit Riders United, president of Eastside Rail Now, secretary of the Eastside Transportation Association and spokesperson for the official committee appointed by the King County Council to draft the Voters’ Pamphlet Opposition Statement. He chaired the Revenue Resources Subcommittee while previously serving in the Washington state House of Representatives from Kirkland as a Democrat.

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