PORT ANGELES — Citing potential impacts to its service and bottom line, Clallam Transit’s governing board has voted to oppose state Initiative 976.
The initiative, which is on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, would establish a flat $30 annual fee for most vehicle registrations and revoke or repeal other sources of funding for local and state transportation projects.
“If I-976 passes and results in permanent funding cuts, then CTS [Clallam Transit System] will not have adequate financial resources to provide the current level of service over the long term,” Transit Finance Manager Dunyele Mason said.
The Transit board voted 7-0 Wednesday to oppose the initiative and directed staff to create a neutral fact sheet about the potential impacts of I-976 on Clallam Transit for public dissemination.
The Jefferson Transit board unanimously opposed I-976 on Sept. 17.
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, Transit board and Port Angeles City Council member, made a third motion to “direct staff to take any measures they deem appropriate to inform the general public of the operational and maintenance issues facing Clallam Transit as we resolve the possible passage of I-976.”
Schromen-Wawrin’s motion also passed unanimously.
“I think it’s our responsibility to inform the public,” said Bill Peach, transit board member and Clallam County commissioner.
I-976 would “repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value,” according to the ballot title.
Proponents of the measure backed by perennial anti-tax initiative sponsor Tim Eyman has said it would repeal a “dishonest valuation schedule” and limit license tabs to a “flat, fair and reasonable” fee, according to the Secretary of State voter’s pamphlet.
Opponents have said I-976 would threaten transportation safety, harm communities and “devastate public transit” by cutting more than $4.2 billion in state and local transportation funding over six years.
No members of the public attended the meeting to speak for or against the initiative, which appeared on the agenda as required by statute for board action.
Clallam Transit ordered 10 heavy duty buses this year thanks to a $1.3 million state rural mobility grant and $2.7 million in state-administered Federal Transit Administration funding.
The new coaches will be manufactured by Livermore, Calif.-based Gillig in February, officials said.
“What were being told is that if I-976 passes, the spigot to the state is turned off very quickly,” Mason said of future capital replacements.
“There’s some debate as to when that actual date is, but I’ve heard the end of December.”
Clallam Transit is “heavily dependent” on grant funding for capital, Mason said.
“A very small portion of our sales tax has been used to match otherwise state and federal funding,” Mason said.
“We assume the federal funding will continue through the state [if I-976 passes], but we don’t know how the state will chose to reallocate that across the other transits given the potential lack of state money.”
Risk of loss
Clallam Transit is at risk of losing more than $1.1 million in operating revenue and $2.4 million in state funding for capital projects in 2020 if I-976 passes Nov. 5, according to information provided by Mason.
“In summary, it’s going to hit us hardest in capital, which will affect our operating indirectly because we will now have to set aside some capital,” Mason told the board.
“If this passes, the state is going to make some decisions in the next legislative session next spring,” she added.
“And based on those decisions, we will have a lot more information about where we would be.”
Clallam Transit Board Member and Port Angeles Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter said all public transportation agencies should be concerned about the impacts of I-976.
“If you look at a worst-case scenario potential, it would be really hard to get off the Peninsula without a car,” Dexter said.
“Anyone who needs to get to hospitals in Seattle and relies on public transportation of any kind, including the ferries, even with a car it could be problematic.
“As a team player for all public transportation,” Dexter added, “my opinion is that we should oppose it on a variety of levels.”
Schromen-Wawrin said the measure, if approved, would jeopardize Clallam Transit’s long-term plan to add a third daily run for the popular Strait Shot route to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal.
“What I’ve told people is we’re working towards a mid-day Strait Shot in a few years,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“Everyone’s excited. So let’s be concrete about what this means. That plan is going to be scuttled.
“We’re probably going to have to consider route cuts across the board,” he added.
“Those are the concrete things that people are going to feel.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].