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Additional loss of $35 million in sales tax revenues next year threatens Metro bus service


Cumulative funding gap of $100 million will mean fewer buses on streets unless Legislature enacts new funding sources, says Council budget chair


A new projection of sales taxes collected in King County shows that revenues could be down an extra $35 million in 2010, which when added to Metro Transit’s existing $65 million projected shortfall will create a $100 million shortfall in funding for bus service.

The new report prompted the Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee to call for action by the state Legislature to provide counties with new revenue sources for public transportation.

“At a time of record ridership, we are facing the reality that we may have to cut transit service unless a new source of revenues is identified,” said Council Budget Chair Larry Gossett. “For many people in my district and throughout King County, a reduction in public transportation would have a catastrophic impact. We need to ensure that Metro Transit and transit systems throughout Washington state have a stable funding source that will allow us to maintain and expand public transportation. Without those funds, the buses will stop rolling.”

The Council Budget Committee was briefed today on the state’s sales tax revenue report for the fourth quarter of 2008. The report projects an additional 7.7 percent decline in sales tax revenues in 2010, or a loss of $35 million, on top of the previously forecast loss of $65 million or a 12 percent drop for next year. King County Metro has already seen an additional drop of $29 million in sales tax revenue for the 2008-2009 biennium; that loss has nearly exhausted the operating reserves for Metro Transit, which has strived to maintain current levels of service and expand service funded by voters under the “Transit Now” initiative.

The cumulative loss of sales tax revenues will create a gap of $100 million by 2010 for Metro operations, the equivalent of 800,000 to 1,000,000 hours of bus service. The committee was briefed by King County Director of Management and Budget Bob Cowan and Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond.

Sales tax revenues support 61 percent of Metro Transit’s budget. Farebox revenues provide nearly 22 percent, with the remainder coming from federal grants.

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