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Published on Nov 06, 2019

Washington cities respond to I-976

Contact: Brian Daskam

“On behalf of the 281 cities and towns across Washington state, I am deeply disappointed by the early results indicating that I-976 will pass,” said Peter King, CEO, Association of Washington Cities (AWC).

“Our cities, towns, and transit partners are already struggling to build and maintain adequate and safe transportation infrastructure. I-976 will severely increase the burden on mayors and councils. The result will be felt by residents of all cities and towns, large and small, urban and rural, east and west.”

The new law will immediately impact cities by repealing the authority of city transportation benefit districts (TBDs) to impose vehicle license fees. Sixty cities use these fees to provide basic street maintenance and other transportation services—for many, it is their only dedicated transportation funding source. In 2018, cities raised $58.2 million in revenue through these fees and made critical investments in local projects.

Over the next six years, I-976's impact is projected to be:

  • $350 million in lost revenue to cities from TBD vehicle license fees which pay for street maintenance, preservation, and other basic transportation services.
  • $1.97 billion in lost revenue to Sound Transit.
  • $1.5 billion in lost revenue to the state Multimodal Account, which pays for public transit, paratransit, ferries, bicycle/pedestrian safety grant programs, Safe Routes to School grants, and direct distributions to local governments.
  • $265 million in lost revenue to the state Motor Vehicle Account, which pays for highway construction and maintenance, direct distributions to local governments, and many other transportation infrastructure programs.
  • $89 million in lost revenue to the Washington State Patrol Highway Account, which pays for the activities of the State Patrol.

In 2017 alone, cities spent $1.6 billion on their transportation systems, yet continue to face a maintenance shortfall of more than $1 billion. Spending on city transportation infrastructure comes primarily from local sources—79% local revenue (such as TBD fees, sales taxes, and property taxes) and 21% state and federal revenue. Approval of this initiative further hinders local governments’ ability to provide a safe and efficient transportation system.

Recently, AWC’s Board of Directors adopted transportation funding as a key priority for the 2020 legislative session, asking the Legislature to “adopt a comprehensive set of transportation policies that provide robust new resources and local options.” King indicated that AWC would pursue this priority with a renewed sense of urgency.

“The fact of the matter is that Washingtonians need safe, well-maintained and reliable streets, bridges, sidewalks, bike lanes, and other basics. Study after study documents the need and shortfall in funding. Cities need new options to fund their transportation infrastructure,” said King. “The passage of I-976 exacerbates those needs. We will continue to engage and work with the Legislature and Governor to create solutions.”

Media contact:

Brian Daskam
Communications Manager
(360) 753-4137

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