Sound Transit 3 problems, solutions

2017 legislative session • March 17, 2017 

The Current -- 2017 legislative session

Letter from Leadership 

The Current 2017-18

Dear Friend:  

The Legislature returned to a more normal pace this week, with several committee meetings and public hearings in both chambers. Committee work will continue next week as we move toward our policy committee cutoff (opposite chamber) deadline on March 29.

Good news on revenue  

We received good news yesterday when the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the state's revenue forecast. The council said our state's general fund revenue increased by $303 million for the 2017-19 biennium. That means state lawmakers will have an additional $2.6 billion for the upcoming two-year budget cycle compared to the current one that runs through June 30. The council sent out a news release and our member on the council, Rep. Terry Nealey, released this statement.  

Upcoming budget proposals

Budget writers now have the information they need to produce operating budget proposals in the House and Senate. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, which will go first this year, is expected to roll out its plan early next week.

The House Democrats will then likely release their proposal early the following week. We are hoping they finally reveal which taxes they want to create or raise to pay for their new proposed spending. Once both chambers have passed their respective bills, final budget negotiations can begin.

There are three separate state budgets -- operating, capital and transportation. We expect to see transportation and capital budget proposals emerge in the next week or so. 

Letter to Speaker of the House Frank Chopp

We are hearing from many constituents who are upset with their increased car-tab bills as a result of the controversial Sound Transit 3 measure that passed last November. While the measure passed overall in three counties, Pierce County rejected it (44.3 percent) and Snohomish County passed it with only 51 percent.

We have introduced legislation to address the formula being used to calculate these bills and bring accountability to Sound Transit. Our members who represent parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties sent a letter to Speaker Chopp asking him to pass three measures related to Sound Transit 3. You can learn more about this issue in a section below.

Update on Seattle's environmental catastrophe

Last week, we explained the failure of the West Point Treatment Plant in Seattle and the harm it continues to cause Puget Sound. The lack of outrage and calls for accountability for this environmental catastrophe have been surprising.

The King County Council voted this week to authorize an independent, third-party investigation. This is an important first step in determining what happened and, most importantly, what can be done in the future to prevent it from happening again. 

If you are not familiar with this issue, this recent web post will bring you up to speed. It includes a link to a recent op-ed three of our members wrote for The Seattle Times.  

Correct link to House floor speech 

I provided you a link last Friday to my House floor speech on the levy cliff bill. Unfortunately, that link was broken. You can find the correct one here (20:11). 

Good luck with your NCAA tournament brackets!  

In your service,

Rep. Dan Kristiansen
House Republican Leader
39th District
(360) 786-7967

Sound Transit 3 problems, solutions

Voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties passed Proposition 1 (Sound Transit 3/ST3) last November. However, the measure failed in Pierce County (44.3 percent) and received a narrow majority of votes in Snohomish County (51 percent).

The massive $54 billion measure increased the sales tax (increased to 1.4 percent), property tax ($25 per $100,000 home value, including commercial property) and car tab amounts ($110 per $10,000 vehicle value) in these three counties. It also extended transit taxes that voters approved in 1996 and 2008, which would have been reduced over time.

Projects funded in ST3 include light rail, bus and park-and-ride projects over 25 years.

Many residents are now feeling the financial sting of the measure's tax increases -- especially car-tab increases. These folks are contacting our offices, sharing their concerns and requesting legislative action. We understand these concerns and are joining with Senate Republicans to address them through proposed legislation. 

Problem: Sticker shock for car tabs as a result of an inflated and sometimes inaccurate formula used by the Department of Licensing.

  • Solution: Senate Bill 5893 would require any Sound Transit car-tab fees collected by the Department of Licensing be based on the Kelley Blue Book value of the vehicle. Our House companion bill was dropped today. 
  • Solution: House Bill 2132 would tie the formula to the Kelley Blue Book value. The Senate companion is Senate Bill 5851.

Problem: Sound Transit is not directly accountable to voters.

  • Solution: Senate Bill 5001 would change the board of a Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) from appointed to elected, and reduce the number of directly elected board members from 19 to 11. The measure passed the Senate 29-20 on March 1 with bipartisan support. Our House companion is House Bill 1029.

Problem: There are properties impacted by ST3 that sit both inside and outside of boundary lines.

Problem: No local control for cities and their residents.

  • Solutions: Senate Bill 5817 would allow local governments to opt out of paying the three ST3 taxes. Senate Bill 5854 would allow counties and cities to exempt their residents from the ST3 property tax increase. Our House companion bills were dropped today. 

Problem: Is Sound Transit 3 constitutional?

Rep. Mark Harmsworth is the prime sponsor of House Bills 1029, 1958 and 2132. He has done a series of interviews on the issue:

Wildfire prevention, response

No one will ever forget the wildfire seasons of 2014 and 2015 and their devastating impacts on families, firefighters, properties, livestock, resources, and communities. Wildfire prevention and response have been critical issues in the Legislature over the last few years and our members have played leading roles in crafting and enacting critical reforms. That work continues this legislative session:  

Our state also recently entered into an agreement with the federal government to further work on creating healthy, resilient forests. According to this March 10 news release, the Good Neighbor Authority allows the U.S. Forest Service to partner with DNR for watershed restoration and forest management services on National Forest System lands.

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