How to fund local street maintenance

March 6th, 2015 by Ken

City governments have many responsibilities.   One of these is the maintenance of city streets and roads.

Nothing gets the ire up quicker for a citizen than to drive on city streets full of pot holes – or face bicyclist on streets with no bike lanes – or be stuck in traffic waiting for malfunctioning traffic signals.

Cities used to receive funding from the state for road construction and maintenance.  The money came from the renewal fees on car tabs which the state used to fund its transportation budget and share a little with local governments.

A citizen initiative and legislative action took that source of revenue away and local governments began looking for new sources of money for street and road repair and maintenance.

The state legislature in its wisdom gave local governments the ability to increase license tab fees by $20.   It also gave cities an alternative option of asking the voters to increase the local sales tax by up to .02 percent.   Increased car license fees gave cities a sure source of revenue.   An increase in the local sales tax provided more money – but depended on the will of the voters to approve the source.

A couple of years ago the City of Olympia grasped onto the sure thing and increased license tab fees by $20.

Now, the City of Tumwater has decided to ask the voters in its municipality to approve a .02 percent increase in the local sales tax.   Money can only be used for transportation purposes.   This April Tumwater voters will have a chance to approve more money for city streets and roads.

Members of the Lacey City Council are trying to determine their course of action.  Will they follow Olympia’s lead and enact a $20 license fee tab or will they put a sales tax increase on the ballot and let the people decided.

I’ve always believed that its better to get voter approval for increased taxes.   That forces government to make the case for the money and puts taxpayer approval on the use.

Just increasing license fees is a cop out by local officials afraid of the voters.

Tumwater residents have a choice.   Olympia residents – didn’t.

Posted in Government, History, Informational, Local Politics, The Real News

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