Leavitt’s letter to Inslee (that was signed by 43 other mayors)

As reported online yesterday, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, who will be announcing plans to seek a second term this afternoon, was part of a “Mayor’s Transportation Forum” that sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee regarding transportation funding.

Here’s what the letter said:

February 13, 2013
Dear Governor Inslee and Legislative Leaders:

We, the undersigned Mayors, are gravely concerned about the urgent and unmet need for transportation funding and humbly request that you take action in the 2013 legislative session. We see both direct funding and local financing options as effective means to address the need.

Failing to take action now will cause increased transportation costs, increased congestion, and reduced competitiveness for Washington businesses. Recognizing that we as state taxpayers have competing interests for limited dollars, we ask that you give serious consideration to providing authority and options at the local level this year.

Maintaining what we have and the Growing Need: Our transportation system lays an important foundation for Washington’s economy. It provides the vital connections that link our homes to our work places and carry products to market. Investments are needed now to repair and maintain roads, streets and bridges, and to operate and maintain ferries and transit services. Both short- and long-term solutions are needed to ensure that we’re able to maintain, operate and improve the system to accommodate the growing demands for transit service and on state and local roads.
You are, perhaps more than anyone, acutely aware of the factors contributing to the structural deficiency in how Washington funds our transportation system. The loss of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) in the mid-1990s, the one percent property tax limit, and the Great Recession have significantly reduced city and county budgets and our collective ability to raise funds.

Statewide, cities need at least $3.4 billion in the next 10 years to maintain and repair streets and bridges. Approximately 20 percent of city transportation funding is dedicated by state law; cities must fund the remaining 80 percent from general funds. As a result, many cities have drastically reduced funding to maintain their roads. Pavement conditions in most cities are deteriorating, resulting in an increasing number of lane miles that will require expensive reconstruction.
Public transit will require an additional $2 billion over the next decade simply to maintain current levels of service. Demand for transit service is growing steadily and additional revenue will be necessary in order to accommodate this increased ridership. Counties need an additional $1.5 billion over the next decade to address their needs.
We therefore offer the following “First Step” proposal for your consideration in order to address the short term need. It is by no means a panacea for all of our problems, nor is it comprehensive enough to solve the longer term need. But it begins to address the short term regional and local investment needs.

First Step Transportation Funding Plan

1) Eight cent per gallon gas tax increase.

2) A Motor Vehicle Excise Tax option of up to 1.5% that counties could enact either by councilmanic action or public vote with options provided to counties for a specific level of MVET and method of revenue allocations.

3) Expand from $20 to $40 the vehicle license fee (VLF) that can be enacted through public vote or councilmanic action.
This plan is a “First Step” towards addressing the most immediate transportation needs of cities, counties and the State. But there continues to be a need for sustainable funding solutions to address the longer-term needs of our statewide transportation system identified by the Connecting Washington Task Force last year.
We are committed to working with you to address our shared critical needs. When State leaders develop a proposal for long-term, sustainable transportation funding, we encourage the consideration of several strategies, including: creation of local or statewide transportation utilities, development of a pilot program to test the potential use of a transportation revenue strategy based on usage, such as a vehicle miles traveled option, and an increase in weight fees, because many cities experience the effects of heavy truck usage on their local roadway system.
We appreciate your consideration.

The letter was signed by 44 mayors, representing the following cities: Arlington, Auburn, Bainbridge Island, Bellingham, Black Diamond, Buckley, Burien, Covington, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, Fife, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kennewick, Kent, Kirkland, Lacey, Lake Forest Park, Longview, Marysville, Mercer Island, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo, Normandy Park, Oak Harbor, Olympia, Pacific, Port Townsend, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, SeaTac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Tacoma, Tukwila, Vancouver and Walla Walla

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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