Improving economy boosts Metro's coffers by $32 million

SEATTLE -- Sales tax money coming in for Metro Transit is increasing more than expected: $32 million more last year alone. And a conservative think tank issued a review suggesting the need for an upcoming vote to raise taxes and avert bus cuts may no longer be necessary.

But King County's top budget chief says that's misleading. Dwight Dively, King County Budget Director said, "The numbers are accurate. But the choice of information to share is clearly to make a particular point that isn't entirely accurate."

Bus fares cover only a third of metro transit's costs. There's federal funding, property tax and a temporary chunk of car tabs that expires in July. Sales tax funding covers about half of Metro Transit's budget. But the amount of revenue is problematic because it goes up and down with the economy.

Supporters of the "Proposition 1" vote on April 22 say passage would stabilize that, bringing in tens of millions of new dollars for Metro and roads by hiking vehicle fees and sales taxes.

Metro expects to cut up to 17% of service affecting 80% of riders if it cannot raise more money.

But the conservative Washington Policy Center isn't buying it. Its policy researchers point to increasing Metro Transit revenue - $32 million more than expected last year alone, according to new figures from the county. WPC calls it a "windfall."

Dively, however, says revenue went down in the five previous years and is now back to where it was. And Dively explains why he believes that's still not enough:

"Let's say, six years ago, you made $40,000 a year. Your wages were cut during the recession. Now you've come back to $40,000, which is exactly the situation we have for sales tax at Metro. Are you as well off as you were six years ago? No, because that $40,000 buys you 15% less stuff than it used to."

Inflation is the factor, he says, and the need to restore spent reserves and previous cuts.

Critics say it will only make Metro fat.

Metro says the planned cuts could return 20,000-30,000 more cars back on the road.

For More Information:

Washington Policy Center review of Metro transit funding

Proponents of Proposition One

King County Council's unanimous vote to ask voters for additional money for Metro transit.