Jefferson Transit opposes I-976

Initiative aims to limit annual license fees for certain vehicles, change transportation taxes

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Transit Authority board has unanimously voted to oppose statewide Initiative 976.

The initiative, sponsored by Tim Eyman’s Voters Want More Choices and Permanent Offense committees, aims to limit annual license fees for vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds to $30 and to change transportation taxes.

The Jefferson Transit Authority (JTA) board released a statement that said the agency does not want to see a reduction in public transportation funding.

The initiative will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.

The board conducted a special meeting to discuss I-976 on Sept. 17 and released the statement Oct. 11.

Unanimous vote

The Clallam Transit board voted 7-0 Wednesday to oppose the initiative and directed staff to create a fact sheet about the potential impacts of I-976 on the agency’s services.

JTA said funds that pay for agency buses, paratransit and vanpool programs will be reduced if voters approve the initiative.

“We can’t really say what the impact will certainly be,” said Tammi Rubert, Jefferson Transit general manager.

“What we don’t know is the total effect on Jefferson Transit. We have to wait to see what the legislators are going to do.

“It could potentially affect us a lot if we lose all of our state funding.”

In addition to the $30 tabs, I-976 would eliminate the 0.3 percent sales tax on vehicle purchases, reduce electric vehicle and snowmobile fees and remove the authority for transportation-benefit districts to impose a vehicle fee, the agency said in a press release.

“If passed, the total revenue loss for transportation purposes across the state will be $4.2 billion over six years,” the release said.

“The account that provides funding for transit agencies, including JTA, the State Multimodal Account, is projected to lose $1.5 billion over that same period if the measure is approved.

“That amounts to an approximate 70 percent reduction in funds for the current two-year period. Almost half of the funds in the State Multimodal Account are designated for transit programs.”

Agency officials said that about 31 percent of Transit operating revenue comes from that state account. It amounts to about $1.53 million this fiscal year.

“Bus service in jeopardy if the initiative is passed will included fixed-route bus service in Eastern Jefferson County, paratransit bus service in Eastern Jefferson County, and deviated-route service in West Jefferson County,” the agency said in the release.

“It is difficult to determine the full effects of the initiative now because its implementation will be determined by future decisions of the state Legislature and the resolution of any potential legal challenges,” the release said.

JTA said it has set aside reserves that will allow the agency to maintain current service levels without interruption for as long as possible.

“Any changes as a result of this initiative will go through the newly formed Citizens Advisory Committee for a robust public process,” the release said.

If voters approve the measure, JTA will have to start planning on how it will manage operations, Rubert said.

“I am not 100 percent sure,” Rubert said, “but I believe that we should be OK in 2020. If it passes we will probably start planning for 2021.

“Once we know the full impact of the reduction in funding, we’ll be better able to plan.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].

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