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Last Chance Missed for Transit Tax

Posted By Jordan Schrader on March 8, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Lawmakers have probably missed their last chance to do something to bail out struggling transit agencies.

Pierce Transit and its Snohomish County counterpart, Community Transit, say they need funding to stave off cuts to bus service. They want authority to levy a $20 fee on vehicles in the county without voter approval, or a bigger fee if voters permit.

There was a last-minute push in the House to temporarily give them that power, which counties and cities have now.

But the Senate this afternoon rejected a House amendment to provide the authority for car-tab fees. Rep. Marko Liias said he would reluctantly agree to withdraw his amendment so the bill - an unrelated measure sought by Spokane-area legislators - can beat Thursday's deadline to win approval.

Next year, Liias said, the crisis hitting transit agencies will be more obvious. "I think that will help create urgency for more action," he said.

Pierce Transit has threatened to eliminate local bus service in much of the county starting in 2012 if it can't find new money by then. And Liias said Community Transit's board has decided to suspend Sunday and holiday bus service starting this summer.

Tim Eyman says lawmakers are thumbing their nose at voters by trying to pave the way for new car-tab fees. Voters have repeatedly said that car tabs should cost no more than $30, said Eyman, who sponsored those initiatives.