March 15, 2006
City wants tax boost to fix roads
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is seeking to raise taxes to pay for a $500 million backlog in basic road maintenance. The details of the tax and where the money will go are still up in the air, but the safest prediction is that we'll pay through the nose and a lot of the money will be wasted. The biggest fear is that necessary neighborhood road maintenance will be subordinate to paying unlimted billions for Nickel's Tunnel Big Dig Boondoggle. But there are sane voices in the debate:
"I agree with the mayor about the need for some funds to do basic maintenance," said Andy MacDonald, the volunteer president of the city Neighborhood Council's transportation committee. ... But MacDonald opposes linking that funding to the tunnel proposal.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at March 15, 2006
09:55 AM | Email This
"(Nickels) seems to want to bundle the basic maintenance with big ticket projects like getting the viaduct put into a tunnel," he said. "If we're going to have a levy we should just focus on the maintenance that we need and leave the funding of the viaduct to the state of Washington."
This is an example of the mechanism used in King County to fund roads. While transportation agencies work to hide impacts that would hinder growth and development, using whatever means necessary, huge backlogs in unfunded road projects are created that only the taxpayer can fix. This creates a drain on even the funding necessary for maintenance, as dollars are shifted for critical projects that cannot be avoided.
As long as governments work to shift all road infrastructure costs to the taxpayers, and allow the growth industries to be fully subsidized for those costs, we should be prepared for more and more new taxes to fund roads. If we don't want to fund it, we can work to reform transportation agencies into doing honest analysis, decisiion making bodies into defending the taxpayers from excessive subsidies to the growth industry, or we can await complete gridlock.
Nickels himself failed the test while on the King County Council, in doing absolutely nothing while King County shifted hundreds of millions in unfunded road projects from developers to the taxpayers.
2. How unfortunate that Nickels seems to be trying to loot every other funding source for his tunnel. the basic city road maintenance shouldn't even require special extra taxes. That should just be a part of everyday government doings.
That he seeks special taxes to fix roads just shows how unimportant roads are to him. The city should focus on the basics first. When the city of Sammammish incorporated, they just jumped in and started on roads. No special tax. No need for that. The priorities of the city were straight and on target--just the basics, please.
3. I question the half-Billion figure for infrastructure -- 20 years ago the estimate to upgrade our aging water system was over 1/3 Billion -- I believe that the total package (without the viaduct) to bring Seattle up to code is over 1 Billion -- plus.
4. Perhaps he could just phone up Christine and ask for some of that gas tax money...?
You poor people up in Seattle are just going to be Nickled and dimed to death, aren't you?
MJC, I resemble you comment somewhat.
You, as a long term homeowner are getting screwed, too. But, your home value (and thusly your taxes) are due to inflated home prices partially caused by developer impact fees. No matter what, there is a risk involved for the developer. The cost of that risk will always get passed on to the home buyer. This results in inflated home prices. They "always" get passed on with "profit" for the risk.
What you are suggesting is to make the inflation even greater by making all the costs upfront.
And your traffic problems aren't caused by the homeowner. If your business would only locate in the suburbs there would be no need for the commute and clogging of the artieries (arterials).
Maybe, the businesses need to pay more for transportation.
You poor people up in Seattle are just going to be Nickled and dimed to death, aren't you?
Posted by pseudotsuga at March 15, 2006 10:33 AM
Pseudotsuga, I have a feeling it won't just be the people of Seattle or King County that will actually be the only ones Nickled and dimed to death. Somehow, the rest of us will be paying for Seattle's problems. That's the typical modus operendi.
Impact fees don't drive home prices in this market, supply and demand does. And as long as there are more buyers than sellers, home prices will continue to rise. Impact fees come out of developer profits, and those profits are way beyond reasonable in this market. Remember also that profit is what comes AFTER everyone has skimmed their piece off the price of a home.
If impact fees ever created the dissincentive to build, how bad would that be? The evidence proves that we can no longer keep up with growth.
King County has tens of billions in unfunded road projects, record levels of capital bonding, higher taxes than ever, and unrestrained growth occuring with no "real" investment in infrastructure. The only money we're able to come up with is to build monuments to greedy sports franchises and transportation boondoggles that will redistribute billions from the taxpayers to construction profiteers, while improving nothing! Isn't anyone concerned about what things will look like in 10 or 20 years? Consider that changes in the last 20? Is King County a better place to live today than in 1986?
We are now faced with paying the piper because the impact costs of growth haven't been paid, or even honestly considered, for a couple decades now. Existing homeowners are asked to build the roads, schools and all the other infrastructure to support growth, or live with the traffic and overcrowded schools. That is an indirect subsidy of the profits of the growth industry, whether we pay it today or a decade from now when our infrastructure has gridlocked.
Of course I'm getting screwed, as all homeowners are. I'm asked to build the roads to support growth. I'm asked to build the schools to support growth. I'm asked to live with the growing densities, lower quality of life, and pay higher energy, water and utility costs to fund that infrastructure too. And I'm asked to pay while developers rake in the dollars building cheezy homes and selling them at market driven prices that provide outrageous profits. I pay while I witness my government cheating and breaking laws to shift all those costs to me, and then blackmail me with threats of even further quality of life reductions if I don't give them more. And all while governments pick and choose who can build and which of their friends will get the breaks.
If a business moves to the suburbs, are you going to make them pay to widen the roads to support the increased traffic, or will you ask me to pay for it too? And if they don't want to pay, are you going to deny them their right to locate within an urban area where the infrastructure is in a better state to support them?
I live near a Master Planned Community of 10,000. There aren't 100 residents of this community employed here, but getting on the same rural roads every morning to work in Redmond, Seattle, or other points west. There are miles of backups every morning, but no money or serious plan to fix the problem. Now multiply this quarter billion dollar problem by hundreds throughout the county.
How much growth are people willing to accept? Ever lived in Southern California? Who wants to live in an urban area where city boundaries are invisible, but no more than driving through a congested intersection? Then what happens when we can't grow anymore, roads gridlock and businesses leave?
Growth in not perpetual. It can't be. But it can destroy a region and is destroying this region. Making growth pay its way is just one way to mitigate the adverse impacts of growth on quality of life and the taxpayer. Without a cost, though, unrestrained growth is a parasite that will eventually kill any region where it is allowed to thrive.
8. By asking for this amount, Nickels will find someway to convince the state and Feds that he now has $500+ million as a downpayment on the tunnel, so now they can pony up the rest of the financing package. Basic maintenance should be part of the normal budget. This is just one more example of the taxpayers being asked to pay extra for things that should already be covered with current revenues. What Nickels should do is ask Paul Allen for a blank check in exchange for naming rights to tunnel.
9. I've driven on logging roads that are smoother and better maintained than the collection of ruts, potholes and washboards which pass for through streets in Seattle neighborhoods. The road system hasn't been this bad since they skidded logs down Yesler Way.
The decision whether to maintain the local road grid in Seattle or let it fall into ruin is ultimately the city's decision. They can do with them what they like.
The main thing I care about is making sure that I-5, I-90 and Old 99 are maintained (and widened!!!).
Gee, seems like Mayor FatA$$ has created quite a pickel for himself.
Typical of the LEFTIST PINHEADED KLOWNS who IMMEDIATELY say our problem is we are UNDERTAXED.
Streets are a fundamental and basic serice. They should be funded ahead of any and all other DISCRETIONARY programs.
Nickels is the worst kind of Mayor. He should be a posterchild to our youth of what happens to your brain when you eat too many donuts. The gross, excessive fat pinches off critical bloodflow to your brain.
Seattle is getting $50'ed to death. Everything is "only another $50".
Reprioritize Mayor FatA$$.
No new taxes!!!!!!!
MJC, I think you are correct, but so am I.
Yes, supply and demand has fueled the price of the house, but never, ever do impact fees come out of developer's profits. Unless, of course, you say the cost of building roads, sewers and water lines also come out of developer profits. If so, your statement is correct.
Every developer I know and I know 100s add impact fees onto the price.
Speaking for the rest of the state of Washington, we're already getting bent over to pay for the cost of replacing the Viaduct.
If the Seattle-oids want a damn tunnel so bad, they can pony up the difference in cost, including any overruns (and there will be overruns. Just ask Boston.)
13. 1) Roads and bridges wear out and need to be repaired or replaced.
2) Nickels got elected in 1991 and probably inherited some of the backlog from Paul Schnell who may have inherited some of the backlog from Norm Rice who may have inherited some of the backlog from Charlie Royer and so on and so on
3) What is annoying is that under Nickels' administration the actual repairs have made things worse. Here between Green Lake and Woodlawn Park Zoo we have lost lanes of traffic, parking places, and sidewalks have been ripped up for sloppy asphalt patches.
4) It is unfortuneate that Nickels waited for 5 years b4 presenting a plan and that he chose to include normal maintenace with the Nickels Big Dig
5) The roads need to be fixed and SR 99 probably needs to be strengthened, but otherwise things are good enuff.
6) If Nickels wants to invest his earnings in Powerball tickets and use the winnings to pay for his big dig tunnel of love, I have no objection to naming the BDTOL after him since he paid for it himself.
14. Another bait and switch by the democrats. We should have streets paved in solid gold with the money these people thieve from us each year.
What I don't get is that road maintanence is one of the few things everyone from the left and right can agree is a central function of government, and yet Seattle can't do it (they can't do elections, either, but that's another story).
On the other hand, this is probably a great place for the latte tax. I don't know how many times I've had coffee shoot out the little sip hole in my Starbucks cups from hitting a Seattle pothole....
16. You might want to seek legal representation for your ordeals. I'm sure a class action suit against the city can be put together.
17. Just came up with a crazy idea. For the past 150 years we've been building hard streets out of asphalt, concrete, cobblestone and driving over them with rubber tires.
Why not make the roads out of rubber in Seattle and drive over them on stone wheels? Might cut down on the friction, potholes and such. Will be safer for motorcyclists, bicyclists who are in accidents too.
I'm going to have to buy a box of Crayolas so I can make an official presentation to the Seattle City Council. At worst I can get a three-year, multi-million dollar study done on this.
18. And now they want suggestions on capital improvements. I filled out their form and suggested capital conservation, in otherwords, fix your current infrastructure, don't go spending more money you don't have on bike lanes, art work, and red light cameras.
19. forget the streets--we want more art sculpture parks!