Bucking a nationwide wave of anti-tax sentiment, Bellingham voters agreed Tuesday (Nov. 2) to increase local sales taxes for transportation. Mayor Dan Pike said the city will move promptly to restore Sunday bus service, eliminated in September when the Whatcom Transportation Authority faced a crucial budget deficit. Tuesday’s vote increases Bellingham’s sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent, on a current rate of 8.5 percent. In addition to supporting bus service, funds from the tax increase will help pay for street repaving, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, and new sidewalks.
November 3 tallies showed the measure passing by 56 percent to 44 percent although opponents, led by a former radio talk show host and anti-tax activist, outspent supporters by about 25 percent.
The Bellingham City Council, functioning as directors of a newly created Bellingham Transportation Benefits District, will administer the funds yielded by the tax increase. They created the new taxing district after a countywide sales tax ballot measure lost heavily in April. Bellingham voters overwhelmingly supported the increase at that time, but those outside the city voted it down by an even wider margin.