Metro Transit: A different idea
at 4:30pm by Joe Copeland
Seattle businesses would pay a tax of up to $18 annually on each employee as a way to help fund bus service under a proposal from City Councilmembers Nick Licata and Kshama Sawant. The plan also includes a hike on the tax rate for commercial parking lots (from the current 12.5 percent to 17.5 percent). Licata and Swant offered their plan as a replacement for the 0.1 percent sales tax increase in Mayor Ed Murray's bus funding proposal. The mayor also wants a $60 vehicle license fee for Seattle motorists, which the Licata-Sawant proposal would leave in place. The revenue would preserve much of the city bus service threatened by Metro Transit cuts.Licata and Sawant say the sales tax is more regressive than their proposals. "At first blush you're thinking, 'oh my gosh there's another tax on business,'" Licata said. "But we don't say that when there's another tax on people." They also say that the council and mayor could approve their revenue sources, leaving only the car tab measure to go up for a public vote. King County voters shot down a ballot initiative in April that was similar to Murray's plan, but the measure received strong support within the city.The Downtown Seattle Association issued a statement pooh-poohing the Licata-Sawant proposal. "A city tax on jobs sends the wrong message." said the statement, adding "Seattle already is one of the most expensive cities in the nation with respect to parking.” Resonding on Tuesday, Licata said, "It's always going to be expensive." The Seattle City Council imposed a per employee tax in 2006, but repealed it in 2009, during the recession. Licata said that many of the complaints over the tax at that time focused on the paperwork involved, something he and Sawant would try to limit this time around by eliminating exemptions. — B.L.This report has been updated to correct the name of an organization.