After hours of negotiations, the Metropolitan King County Council voted Monday evening 7-2 to increase car tabs by $20 in the county to spare a 17 percent cut in Metro bus service.
The county council members who represent parts of Bellevue, Jane Hague and Reagan Dunn, split on the issue, with Hague joining the majority.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, who pushed the idea to save 600,000 hours of bus service, praised the seven council members who supported the measure, including Republicans Kathy Lambert and Jane Hague, whose district includes parts of Bellevue, who joined the effort late last week.
Though the county council seats are officially nonpartisan after voters changed the positions several years ago, Hague and Lambert had held their seats as Republicans before the change was made.
County Councilman Reagan Dunn, whose district also includes parts of Bellevue, had pushed for the fee increase to go to a public vote.
Despite their stated support Friday, debate continued Monday, with Lambert and Hague, who represents Kirkland, wavering and at times seeming to be changing their minds, according to Publicola, which live-blogged the hearing. But in the end the key votes were there to get a supermajority with the support from Lambert and Hague. Also supporting the change were council members Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Larry Gossett, Joe McDermott, and Julia Patterson.
The bipartisan, multi-pronged transit funding plan maintains current transit service levels while providing transportation alternatives for commuters who may see a reduction in bus service in their communities.
“The new CRC package that the council adopted today will directly benefit my constituents on the Eastside,” Hague, the council vice chair, said in a news release. “In this era of partisan bickering at the federal level, we at King County have bucked the trend. Thanks to efforts made on both sides of the aisle, this new legislation offers real reform for Metro. More importantly it creates jobs, and keeps businesses and people moving.”
Lambert also spoke in support of the fee.
“No one wants a new fee, but the alternative is far worse,” she said in the news release. “Without interim funding, cuts to bus service will be substantial, particularly in the lower-density neighborhoods on the Eastside. This will put more cars on the road, clogging our freeways and bridges and leaving all of us idling in standstill traffic."
Meanwhile, council members Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer expressed disappointment with the decision because they wanted voters to decide the issue.
"I'm deeply disappointed that the majority of my colleagues found it necessary to deny the people the right to vote on this very important matter," Dunn, chair of the council's regional transit committee, said in a news release. "There have been numerous votes on car tabs through the years and the people expect to have a say."
The funding plan includes adoption of the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC), a temporary charge on vehicle licenses for each of the next two years.
It will go into effect in early 2012.