Constantine’s veto of council plan not the answer | Editorial

The King County Council made the right decision Monday to deal with Metro’s financial problems. By a 5-4 vote, the council approved reducing Metro service hours beginning in September. But the council did something even better. It held off on approving more cuts in 2015 and instead suggested ways Metro might find additional funds.

Those wise decisions didn’t make it past County Executive Dow Constantine who, unfortunately, vetoed the plan. The result shifts the burden of paying to prevent future service cuts on to the backs of cities instead of where it belongs — on Metro itself.

Make no mistake. Metro is facing a dire financial future. The Great Recession saw thousands of dollars of revenue it gets for a portion of the sales tax disappear. At the same time, its costs remained high.

An attempt this spring to increase the sales tax and boost car-tab fees was soundly defeated just about everywhere but Seattle. Metro’s answer? Cut back transit service.

That probably is the only reasonable answer this year. But the future isn’t so clear.

The recession is over and people are spending more. That means Metro is getting more money from its share of the sales tax. There’s also the possibility that a thorough audit of Metro will find ways to bring its expenses more in line with those of other major transit systems.

That might not be enough to make Metro whole. But it could help lessen the amount of transit cuts scheduled for 2015.

Then next year, if Metro can show it has sharpened its budget-cutting knife, voters might be more willing to consider a tax increase. Instead, Constantine’s veto has the effect of telling bus riders their transit future is bleak. Sadly for our congested roads, many of them probably are looking at buying a car.

– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter

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