Seattle rejects car-tab fee, passes levy boost for kids
Seattle voters Tuesday soundly rejected a $60 car-tab fee to fund transportation projects in the city, but money didn't seem to be the main objection. The same voters approved the Families and Education Levy that doubled the city's investment in schools and adds an average of $59 to Seattle property-tax bills.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle voters Tuesday soundly rejected a $60 car-tab fee to fund transportation projects in the city, but money didn't seem to be the main objection. The same voters approved the Families and Education Levy that doubles the city's investment in schools and adds an average of $59 to Seattle property-tax bills.
The car-tab vote was a repudiation of Mayor Mike McGinn, who championed the measure as a progressive investment in transit, bike and pedestrian projects. It was his second major defeat this year, having lost a fight against the Highway 99 tunnel in August.
The mayor left a Proposition 1 party before the results were announced and instead appeared at the successful education levy's celebration. But he continued to advance his vision of a less car-dependent future for the city. "I personally believe that if we had a stronger transit component in the ballot measure, that would be appealing to voters," he said.
He blamed the defeat of Proposition 1 on the nature of the car-tab fee, which would have taxed the owner of a clunker the same as someone with a luxury car.
"What I've heard from voters is that the taxing mechanism ... was regressive," McGinn said in a statement, adding that he understands that concern. "We'll keep working on this, because the need to catch up on maintenance and improve transit is not going away."
McGinn was joined in support of the fee by the Seattle City Council, which accepted the priorities of an advisory committee to spend almost 50 percent of the money on transit, 20 percent on bike and pedestrian projects and just 30 percent addressing the city's estimated $1.8 billion backlog in deferred maintenance.
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, chair of the council's transportation committee, agreed that the tax's regressive nature likely led to its defeat, and said there needs to be more progressive options to fund transportation systems.
"That's why despite tonight's setback, this is just the beginning," he said in a statement.
Critics of the 10-year, $204 million measure complained that there was no money in the plan to repair the city's aging bridges, 60 of which are in poor condition, and no new bus routes or hours, while money was directed toward study of a new streetcar line.
"People objected to $18 million for a streetcar, they objected to bicycle parking spots, they objected to spending nothing on bridges," said David Miller, chairman of the Sidewalks and Streets for Seattle campaign against the measure.
The car-tab proposal came on top of a $20 license-tab fee already imposed by the city in May and a two-year, $20 fee approved by the Metropolitan King County Council to preserve Metro bus service. That fee goes into effect in January.
Seattle voters easily approved the seven-year, $232 million Families and Education Levy. The levy was first passed in 1990 and has been renewed every seven years since, but this year's measure doubled the size. The tax on the average homeowner is expected to jump from $65 this year to $124 in 2012.
Supporters argued that a more ambitious levy allowed proven programs to reach more children. The measure doubles the number of children getting support for early learning, adds after-school and summer programs at 23 schools with high poverty rates, and continues the city's support of health clinics at middle and high schools. "It's wonderful news," said Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, who chairs the council's education committee. "I'm grateful that the voters of Seattle have wrapped their arms around our kids once again."
Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog
Your Opinion Matters
Take our survey and enter to win $100. Enter Now!