Seattle Mayor Proposes Sales Tax, Car Tab Fee Hikes To Preserve Bus Service

May 13, 2014

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray wants Seattle voters to approve both tax and fee increases to pay to keep buses running in the city and to and from the suburbs.

Murray on Tuesday announced a proposed $60 car tab increase and a sales tax increase to buy bus service back from King County Metro. Metro has said bus service will be cut this fall after the state Legislature did not find more money for transit and King County voters defeated a tax increase.

The proposal, which will likely go before Seattle voters in November, is similar to the county-wide proposal, which passed in Seattle.

When asked whether the car tab fee puts a disproportionate burden on the poor, Murray said the proposed fee is not regressive in nature.

“When you’re using a regressive tax for a progressive purpose, when you’re using a transfer of wealth to help those who most need transit, it is not regressive because it’s actually helping people who need it,” he said. 

Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association, says downtown businesses are endorsing Murray's plan.

“Almost all of the major employers in downtown Seattle have 60 percent or more of their employees taking the bus. The first question I get now from large employers coming to downtown is: what kind of transit resource do you have? This is critical to our economy for preserving jobs and continuing to attract great employers," she said. 

Murray's announcement follows an announcement on Monday by King County Executive Dow Constantine inviting cities to buy back the proposed bus cuts.

Both Murray and Constantine say the Legislature needs to find a permanent solution.

“This is a crisis, and we’re responding to this crisis so we don’t lose very important transit service,” Murray said. “But that’s not going to stop us from looking about how we actually increase transit service in this city — a city that needs it, the issue of density, the issue of urban growth, of walkable, livable communities that this city want won’t work unless we have additional transit. For the moment, we’re managing our way through a crisis.”