Tuesday, October 18, 2011

125% Increase in Seattle Car Tabs

Voters in Seattle are being asked to approve Proposition 1, a $60 per year increase in automobile registration rates.  The proceeds, according to a unanimous vote by the Seattle City Council and Mayor Mike "McSchwinn" will be used for transportation improvements.

In a unique and rare repudiation of both the City Council and the Mayor, the Seattle Times editorial board is urging a voter rejection of Prop 1.

I agree with the Seattle Times in what must surely be a sign of the Apocalypse.

If you understand what Prop 1 is really all about, you will appreciate life in the People's Republic of Seattle and how everything public in the Emerald City has a certain Alice in Wonderland quality.

And King County, where Seattle is located, just added another $20 this past August.

If approved, this would mean the average Seattle car owner would see their vehicle registration jump from $80 per year to a whopping $180, a massive 125% increase.

Of course, you pay this $100 increase no matter what type of car you drive.  The 2011 BMW 760Li and the 1975 Ford Pinto pay the same regressive rate.

Seattle claims it needs this new money, an estimated $27 million per year, to make important local transportation improvements.  REALLY?

$18 million would go to study (not build, but study) the development of two streetcar lines in the city.  Even supporters agree that these lines will likely never be built.  The current Seattle streetcar, the South Lake Union Trolley (nicknamed "The SLUT" for the obvious acronym) is a money loser and white elephant

So, at a time that all five of Seattle's main bridges are in need of urgent repair and earthquake retrofitting, the city wants to spend $18,000,000 to study streetcar lines that should not be built and likely never will.

Oh, the story gets better....

Remember the original $20 increase from August 2011 imposed by King County?  Did that amount go to help build new roads or repair the existing ones?  No, the money went to mass transit and to preserve bus lines.  Once again, car owners subsidize non-car owners.

But in a city where sidewalks are needed desperately in some northern Seattle neighborhoods, only NINE BLOCKS PER YEAR are allocated to be built.

At the present time, it appears that Prop 1 will fall to defeat.  Virtually everyone is against it except the bicycle clubs and labor unions that would benefit from the financial windfall.

So what does any of this story, however interesting it is, have to do with real estate investment?

Simple.  When Prop 1 fails, Seattle will do once again what it did before.

Tax real property owners to get the road and bike money it needs.

The great sham in the Prop 1 debate is the relatively untold story of a 2006 tax increase called "Bridging the Gap" which was supposed to completely eliminate the backlog of transportation projects in Seattle.

It didn't, obviously.  Homeowners (and investors) in Seattle are still paying the $365 million tax bill.  Where did much of the Bridging the Gap money go?  You guessed it.  Mass transit and not road repairs. Aside from being ashamed of this fact, Seattle boasts about it.

"BE BOLD" he admonished the City Council.

Instead, they were reckless and came up with the madness that is Seattle Proposition 1.

When I finally find myself agreeing with Ken Schram, maybe the Apocalypse really is on the way after all.