Whatcom Transportation Authority Tax Addition (April 2010)
This measure sought to increase the sales taxes collected by the WTA by a further .2 percent which would begin in October of 2010. The purpose of this additional tax would be to help further fund, maintain and improve the public transportation system within the county.
This measure was defeated
|WTA Prop 1 Sales Tax|
WTA noted that if this measure was not approved, Sunday service hours would likely be cut entirely. Although Sunday riders account for only 4 percent of the total amount of service received by the WTA, it will still be an issue for those that depended on the services. Officials saw it as the easiest way to cut costs without effecting a large amount of riders. Further cuts would be made to Saturday and weekday services, totaling 10 percent of the services offered by the WTA.
A lawsuit had been filed by the People for Progressive Transportation which states that the ballot wording was unfair and biased and could mislead voters. The county prosecutor is the one who the suit is against because he is the one who must review the ballot language to ensure that it is fair. The WTA general manager said he did not believe the ballot would mislead voters, it is the same wording that was used in a 2002 measure used to also increase the WTA's taxes, this measure was approved.
Both parties involved with the lawsuit are now working together to try and agree on new wording for the ballot measure, both are hoping the issue will not actually be taken to court where a long fight may ensue. The group who filed the claim have received donation money to campaign against the measure, but are unsure if they would be able to cover court costs so they are hopeful an agreement can be made. A group in favor of the measure, Transit Works stated that the lawsuit was frivolous and just another way for anti tax supporters to gain a voice.
The lawsuit has been thrown out on grounds that the group failed to file their appeal against the measure before the stated deadline. Any group can appeal a ballot's language within 10 days of the measure being filed, this measure was files December 28 2009 and the appeal was filed February 10, 2010. The prosecutor's office had to approve the ballot language and they believe that the wording is fair and gives voters a clear picture of what the issue is about.
The Lynden City Council voted unanimously Tuesday February 16 to oppose this measure by passing a resolution. The city council stated that they believed the WTA should rather tighten their budget and not put more pressure on taxpayers. The city council also urged residents to vote down this measure in April, saying that taxpayers want relief from higher taxes, not increases. Opponents have raised around $6,600 for their campaign against this measure with most of the money coming from the campaign organizer and his wife.
The Bellingham city council unanimously voted to support this measure. Proponents of this measure have managed to raise around $45,300 for their campaign, most of which is from employees of the agency or those who have business with the WTA.. The amount of money raised for this measure has gone up to $51,000 for their campaign. Transit Works is the main group heading the campaign for the passage of this measure, 80 percent of contributions have come from their staff workers. Outside contributions have risen from 29 people to 51 as of April 13. Transit Works though noted that many more have contributed, but due to their small amounts they were not listed.
Text of Measure
The text of the measure reads as follows:
Shall public transportation services in Whatcom County be maintained and improved
by authorizing the Whatcom Transportation Authority to impose an additional twotenthsof one percent (0.2%) sales and use tax effective October 1, 2010?
- The News Tribune, "Whatcom County voters reject WTA sales tax increase," April 28, 2010
- The Bellingham Herald, "WTA launches fact sheet on finances, measure impacts," April 14, 2010
- Whatcom County Election Division, "April 27, Special Election"
- Whatcom County Elections, April 27 Election Results
- The Bellingham Herald, "WTA: Fewer riders affected if Sunday service were cut," April 16, 2010
- The News Tribune, "Lawsuit claims wording of WTA sales tax increase unfair on ballot," February 11, 2010
- The Bellingham Herald, "Lawsuit could force wording change in WTA ballot measure," February 18, 2010
- The Bellingham Herald, "Judge dismisses lawsuit; WTA sales tax increase to go to ballot," March 10, 2010
- The Bellingham Herald, "Lynden council: Reject WTA sales tax increase measure," February 18, 2010
- KGMI, "Lynden City Council Officially Opposes WTA Tax Hike," February 18, 2010 (dead link)
- The News Tribune, "Who is paying for campaigns for and against WTA tax increase?," March 24, 2010
- The Bellingham Herald, "WTA tax supporters raising far more than opponents," April 13, 2010
- Whatcom County Election Division, Sample Ballot (dead link)