Senate panel launching investigatory hearings into Sound Transit 3

Senate panel launching investigatory hearings into Sound Transit 3

Riders at Tacoma Dome Station Link light rail. A state Senate committee is holding investigatory hearings into whether Sound Transit misled the Legislature about ST3, the transit ballot measure voters approved last November. Peter Haley, News Tribune

A state Senate panel will hold a hearing Tuesday on whether Sound Transit deceived the Legislature about its plans for Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion transit package Puget Sound voters approved last November.

The hearing before the Senate Law and Justice Committee will take place at 1 p.m at the Kent City Council Chambers. A second hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Everett.

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The two Republican lawmakers who called for the hearings, state Sens. Steve O’Ban of Tacoma and Dino Rossi of Sammamish, have said they want to find out whether Sound Transit misled state lawmakers about the size of the ballot measure it planned to send to voters last year.

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The two senators also have alleged that the state law authorizing Sound Transit to put the measure on the ballot was unconstitutionally drafted, making it unclear to lawmakers that Sound Transit 3 would rely on an outdated formula to calculate car-tab fees.

Did you feel deceived voting for ST3, the $54B transit package?  For KIRO 7 at 5, Essex Porter is going to a hearing about whether lawmakers were mislead by Sound Transit.

Washington lawmakers approved the bill allowing Sound Transit to send the ballot measure to voters in 2015. But earlier this year, some of them said they thought the Sound Transit 3 package would raise about $15 billion in new revenue, not the $28 billion that voters ultimately approved.

Sound Transit 3 will raise that money over the next 25 years by increasing property taxes, sales taxes and car-tab fees across Sound Transit’s three-county taxing district. The $28 billion will help pay to extend light rail from Tacoma to Everett, while improving commuter rail and bus service throughout the Puget Sound.

While voters in King and Snohomish counties approved the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, Pierce County voters rejected it. That has led to frustration among some Pierce County voters who still must pay the increased taxes, as well as a few lawmakers who represent them, including O’Ban.

State Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island and the chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, criticized the planned hearing as “grandstanding” and “a diversion” earlier this year.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff also denied the Republican senators’ allegations in a memo this month to Sound Transit board members.

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