King County’s Department of Transportation has less than three months to prepare for its first round of cuts to manage a $75 million budget deficit.
The King County Council, however, has not passed the legislation approving the cuts. The legislation is stalled over a disagreement between council members who want to delay the cuts in hopes of new revenue and those who say that the buses can be bought back later when, and if, funding comes through.
The King County Council approved a portion of the cuts a month ago, but County Executive Dow Constantine vetoed the measure. Constantine said that the council needs to pass all of the cuts.
The cuts have been up for a vote by the King County Council every Monday since, but it’s been tabled each time while the county council and executive discuss the issue behind closed doors.
“Nothing of substance has really changed since [Constantine] vetoed the legislation,” said Chad Lewis, a spokesperson for the executive.
The clock is ticking. Metro typically needs about three months to plan for service reductions, Lewis said. Constantine has asked Metro to move forward and plan for the September cuts despite not having a final plan approved by the King County Council.
The King County Council last discussed the plan publicly a month ago. Councilmember Rod Dembowski, a Democrat, led an effort to implement the cuts slated for 2014 only and delay the cuts scheduled for February, June and September of 2015.
Dembowski argued that the county’s finances may improve with this fall’s economic forecast and that a Seattle transit funding measure could prevent many of the cuts. His proposal also preserved Dial-A-Ride Transit services, even though they were part of Metro’s recommended cuts.
Dembowski has since submitted an alternate piece of legislation that would implement the cuts scheduled for September only and removes his previous efforts to save Dial-A-Ride Transit.
King County voters in April rejected a proposal to preserve Metro buses through a 0.1 percent sales tax and a $60 car-tab fee. The measure would have saved an estimated 550,000 hours of annual bus service. Without additional funding, Metro will eliminate 72 routes throughout the county and reduce or revise 84 other routes.
The Seattle City Council is considering its own funding measure, establishing a 0.1 percent sales tax and $60 car-tab fee for Seattle residents to preserve Seattle buses.