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    Group fights higher sales tax

    BY Diane Brooks
    09/05/2001
    by Diane Brooks on 9/5/01.

    With only two weeks to spare, Snohomish County's proposed sales-tax increase for transit service has attracted its first official opponent.

    Washington Citizens for a Sound Economy yesterday announced its opposition to Proposition 1, a measure on the Sept. 18 ballot would increase taxes by 3 cents on every $10 purchase.

    Community Transit (CT), which operates buses as well as dial-a-ride vans for the disabled and the elderly, last year eliminated all Sunday service in Snohomish County as a result of Initiative 695.

    Passage of I-695, which led to a cut in auto-license fees to a flat $30 per vehicle, cost CT more than $18 million per year, or about 30 percent of its operating budget.

    If Proposition 1 passes, CT plans to restore Sunday service, expand its park-and-ride facilities and buy more van-pool vehicles. If it fails, CT expects to make deeper service cuts, including elimination of all Saturday bus routes and dial-a-ride van runs.

    The opposition group is a chapter of a national nonprofit organization that promotes free-market solutions to public-policy problems. Local president Gary Strannigan, a former state senator, says the group opposes Proposition 1 because CT could instead save money by being efficient.

    In the group's news release, Strannigan also implies that transit unions "coming after our wallets" are behind the proposal.

    The "vote yes" argument appearing in the county's voters guide was co-written by County Executive Bob Drewel, a Democrat; County Councilman Gary Nelson, a Republican and former state senator; and Mountlake Terrace Mayor Pat Cordova, a Democrat.

    If voters approve the 0.3-percentage-point tax increase, Snohomish County will have the state's highest sales tax, 8.9 percent.

    Community Transit collects taxes in most urban areas of Snohomish County except Everett, which operates it own bus system.