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Spokane City Council maintains ability to ask voters for transit sales tax

For the third time in six months, Spokane Mayor David Condon vetoed an ordinance passed by a wide margin on the City Council, only to see it overridden by similar vote totals.

The latest veto override dealt with an ordinance that allowed the city to use tax dollars to fund public transportation, circumnavigating the Spokane Transit Authority in case its board decided against putting a transit measure on an upcoming ballot.

Though the council ordinance vote was 6-1 and described as a way to force the STA board to put a measure on a ballot – which it did last week – Condon still vetoed it after the STA board vote.

“Spokane’s approach to transit has long been, and must remain, a regional effort,” Condon wrote in his “veto message,” calling the council ordinance “no longer necessary.”

On Monday evening, Councilman Mike Fagan sided with Condon, saying it was irresponsible to allow the city to use sales taxes and vehicle licensing fees, which it can collect through its Transportation Benefit District, to fund public transportation in addition to streets and pedestrian infrastructure.

“This money was dedicated to street maintenance and repair,” Fagan said. “What we’re doing is, we’ve unlocked the front door to the home, which would allow the TBD board to enter that home and grab that $20 license tab and invest it in transit.”

The City Council doubles as the city’s Transportation Benefit District board, which can raise vehicle license fees or ask voters to raise sales taxes for transportation purposes.

Councilwoman Candace Mumm disagreed with Fagan, saying the transportation district board is a public body that allows “a community to decide how to fund its transportation needs.” She added that she supported the veto override to preserve the option to take the issue to city voters if STA’s measure fails.

“City voters have told us they want enhanced and improved transit. This was a backup plan in case a regional solution could not be found,” Mumm said. “A backup plan, only, where we can potentially go back out to our city voters who have told us in the past that they want this and let them potentially vote on it again.”

In November, Condon vetoed a change to the city’s comprehensive plan, which guides development, regarding manufactured home parks. The original change passed 5-2, as did the subsequent veto override. A similar override occurred in January, after Condon vetoed the council’s paid sick leave policy. That policy passed 6-1, and so did the override.

On Monday, the council overrode Condon’s veto 6-1, with Fagan the sole no vote.


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