Why do Lacey streets need a tax increase?

December 15th, 2015 by Ken

The City of Lacey has some of the best streets and roads in the entire state.  As pointed out recently, the city streets rate an 83 on a scale of 100.  Streets in adjacent cities fall far below that average.

I chalk the status of Lacey roads and streets to two points.   First, Lacey has some of the newest streets in the state.   As the city grew it required new streets built to a tough standard.

And second, the city invested heavily in maintaining and improving its streets from its very beginning.  When Tom Huntamer was mayor in the 1970’s he pushed for a street maintenance program.   For most of the city’s history other mayors and councilmembers have maintained that idea.  The city set aside up to a million dollars each year for street maintenance and overlays.

Until recently that is.   For the last two years the city has been unable to budget money for street maintenance and has used that money to help balance the city’s budget.

A couple of sessions ago, the Washington State Legislature authorized cities to create a Transportation Benefit District.   Funding for that purpose came two ways.   Cities could opt to raise the price of car license tabs by $20.   The City of Olympia did that several years ago.    Or – the cities could go to the voters for an increase in the local sales tax of .02 percent.   The City of Tumwater did that last year and saw it approved.

Lacey officials wrestled with the idea.  Should it raise the car license tabs by $20 or go to the voters for a .02 percent increase in the sales tax?   Both had problems.   The $20 tab increase wouldn’t raise enough money to fund needed city street maintenance programs.      A local sales tax increase would  raise the needed money but would require a positive  vote of the people – – something the city wasn’t certain it could get.

The dial swung towards going to the people for a vote – when Tumwater voters approved a sales tax increase in April.   Lacey officials knew it could be done.

Here’s my view.

The City of Lacey needs to continue to invest in street maintenance.   I’m opposed to the council increasing the  cost of our car tabs – – which leaves the sales tax increase.  If the city can convince the voters of Lacey to approve a sales tax increase then I’m all for it.   I’ve always believed that taxpayers should have a say in any tax increase.

And, if the voters approve the tax increase – – lets start with Pacific Avenue between the two roundabouts.   That street badly needs a new overlay.

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

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