Counties, cities getting short end of transportation stick

Cities and counties didn’t make out well in the past two gas tax increases. Next time, they need to restore their share, Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown said during last week’s Kitsap Transit board meeting.
Counties used to receive 22 percent of gas taxes, which were 23 cents a gallon. They only got 5 percent of the 5-cent increase in 2003 and the 9.5-cent hike in 2005, dropping their overall percentage from 22 to 13.
The 5-cent increase paid for 130 projects and the 9.5-cent for 257 projects.
“There were big projects needed,” Brown said. “Those times have changed.” Counties and cities struggle just to keep up with maintenance, he said. Statewide, counties need $100 million to 150 million for their roads. If another 9 cents was added to the gas tax, counties would need 2 cents.
“Counties and cities need to send a strong message to get back to those historical splits,” Brown said.
He also said transit agencies need to be a bigger part of the next transportation package, though they constitutionally can’t receive gas taxes.
“We never recovered from MVET,” he said. “That funding has never been replaced. A long time ago funding for ferries went away and it’s never been replaced. It’s the same thing for transit agencies.
“Ignoring local transportation needs isn’t acceptable. We need to send a clear voice that if they’re only going to be supporting highways, we’re not going to support that anymore.”
Brown said the past two gas tax increases were set up somewhat to allow legislators to take credit for delivering a project to the home folks.
“I think the voters get that,” Brown said. “Paving the roads and operating buses should be the priorities. You can’t build a new kitchen if your roof is leaking.”