Deceptive ST3? Lawmakers try to make a case | Cornfield

  • Thursday, September 28, 2017 1:43pm
  • Opinion

Republican senators who are convinced Sound Transit leaders played fast and loose with facts about the agency’s light rail expansion plans got a chance Tuesday to prosecute their argument in the court of public opinion.

Next week, in Everett, the senators will make their case that some of the same operatives played fast and loose with the law while abetting the campaign to get Sound Transit 3 passed by voters.

The state Senate Law and Justice Committee is conducting the two-day, two-city legislative inquest.

It comes at the behest of GOP Sens. Steve O’Ban, of University Place, and Dino Rossi, of Sammamish, who insist lawmakers, then voters, got duped on the magnitude of this latest Sound Transit undertaking to fulfill its manifest destiny.

Tuesday’s hearing in the Kent City Council chambers centered on the content and intent of Senate Bill 5987. It passed in 2015, giving Sound Transit authority for this year’s new and higher taxes – including a hike in car tab fees – to finance the expansion.

O’Ban, an attorney, contends the wording of the bill obfuscated Sound Transit’s intention to use a 1990s-era depreciation schedule that overvalues vehicles to calculate the excise tax levy rather than a newer one which more accurately traces a vehicle’s declining value. It’s part of why car tab fees surged this year, surprising, and in some cases shocking, vehicle owners.

He also argued Tuesday that Sound Transit misled lawmakers on what they actually wanted to collect from those living in the taxing district, which covers parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Agency officials said the “full” amount was always represented as $15 billion – not the $28 billion it is now. As far as the $54 billion, which is the sum total of all expenses, no one ever heard that figure, he said.

O’Ban unsuccessfully pressed a Sound Transit lawyer and two high-ranked employees to confess they’d left out a few details in all their presentations and documents. They didn’t. The $15 billion was for 15 years and it grew to $28 billion for 25 years based on added demands of communities to be served. Voters were told $54 billion is what ultimately will be spent.

Republican senators didn’t buy the explanation. They felt deceived and the purpose of the hearings is to hold someone accountable.

Tuesday’s hearing didn’t include testimony of those allegedly caught up by this purported con job – lawmakers.

Leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees, who negotiated the final version of the bill, didn’t get summoned to recount what they knew and when they knew it.

Nor did Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who could have explained why he drafted Amendment 53 to Senate Bill 5987. It would have got rid of the old vehicle valuation schedule and put in place a newer one of his crafting. Then O’Ban or others in his caucus could have testified on why the Senate turned it down.

What could have emerged is a clearer picture of lawmakers’ reliance on outside forces to help them craft and pass complicated and controversial legislation.

And how when such bills get passed in Olympia without all lawmakers understanding the full ramifications, they can feel conned and compelled to investigate.

Contact political reporter Jerry Cornfield at 360-352-8623; or on Twitter: @dospueblos.

The Everett hearing will be held from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Community Resource Center’s school board room, 3900 Broadway Ave.

More in Opinion

Sweet Zags march on | Shiers

One of the country’s finest college basketball programs, Gonzaga prepares for another… Continue reading

Lawmakers toil in playing the game of taxpayer relief

Property tax, car tabs remain a burden

China now driving car market | Brunell

In the 1950s, America’s “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford and Chrysler)… Continue reading

Some green spring cleaning to do | Metzler

Sure, there’s been rain, snow and hail lately, but believe it or… Continue reading

Ireland: cleaner, greener and more prosperous | Brunell

This St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), the Irish have lots to celebrate.… Continue reading

A year in review and a look ahead for KCLS | Guest op

Every spring, King County Library System presents its annual report to the… Continue reading

Hirst ‘fix’ is the wrong move | Being Frank

In a hasty move to “fix” the Hirst ruling, the state Legislature… Continue reading

Washington’s carbon tax differs from B.C. | Brunell

In Olympia, Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing lawmakers to enact a new… Continue reading

The 3 personas of President Trump | Elfers

“And will the real Donald Trump please stand up?” These famous words… Continue reading

Message from new KCLS director

As the new director of the King County Library System, I am… Continue reading

John Spellman: best leader for tough times | Brunell

Too often, virtues and accomplishments of quiet leaders go unsung. Such is… Continue reading