Saving metro routes could cost drivers in taxes

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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SEATTLE - People rallying in Downtown Seattle Friday called on state lawmakers to pass a transportation package during the special session and allow King County to raise new taxes to save Metro bus routes and fix crumbling roads.

Metro is facing a 17 percent service cut next year if new funding isn't found.

"The time for talk is over," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Let's get moving."

Several members of the King County Council want the legislature to give permission for the county to put a motor-vehicle excise tax on the ballot. 

There's no specific proposal yet, but a tax would be based on the value of a car, at a rate of up to $150 per $10,000 of value.

The owner of a 2011 Ford Focus with a value of $12,480 would pay $187.20.

Councilmember Larry Phillips does not expect a tax revolt over the proposal.

"What you're seeing today is a transit revolt, people want more of it not less of it, we cannot tolerate this level of cuts," Phillips said.

Tim Eyman, who sponsored a statewide initiative in 1999 that capped car tab fees at $30 per year, thinks voters have already reached the tipping point.

"Voters have made it clear that car tab taxes are an absolutely radioactive tax. They really, really hate it," Eyman said.

If the state legislature does not sign off on allowing the county to put an excise tax before voters, county officials say they'll be forced to come up with their own funding solution.

Options include raising local car tab fees or an increase in sales taxes. 

Both would also require voter approval.

"I think ultimately our voters want a high quality of life, including bus service and good roads, and they understand it needs to be paid for," Constantine said.