[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The SeaTac Blog nor its staff:]
Figures don’t lie, but liars figure!
Sound Transit has recently placed a referendum on the November ballot for their third tranche of funding called ST3, seeking a total of $54 billion on a plan that will last a quarter of a century. Frankly, this doesn’t seem like the best time to reach out to taxpayers for this kind of funding, when the state is desperately seeking funds for education due to a Supreme Court decision and the funding to address mental illness issues that are also starting to be addressed by the courts. It is obvious that Sound Transit itself is uncomfortable with the facts of this request and therefore has created an intentionally misleading tool, an “ST3 tax calculator”, to convince the public that the cost will be less than what it really is
I discovered this anomaly while comparing Sound Transit’s calculator against one released by the official campaign against ST3, People for Smarter Transit-NoST3. You can find Sound Transit calculator at http://soundtransit3.org/calculator, and Smarter Transit’s calculator at http://Nost3.com.
Sound Transit’s calculator requests 4 pieces of information: number of adults, pretax income, RTA and property value. The variable “# of adults” is actually not pertinent or required to calculate a household’s tax burden. The only reason why this variable is included is so that Sound Transit can divide the total results for the household to make it appear as if the tax is less than it actually is. The truth of the Sound Transit calculator is that for the taxpayer must understand the answer provided by the calculator must be multiplied by the number of adults input to arrive at the correct answer. This means that the calculator is presenting an artificially reduced calculation that the user must understand is calculated per adult and must perform another calculation on that answer to arrive at the correct answer. Wouldn’t have been more honest to simply provide a per household answer by asking for the entire household’s income, or all of the RTA’s paid in the household or the value of the assessed property owned by the household? Clearly the straightforward approach did not serve Sound Transit’s motives.
The calculator from Smarter Transit-NoSt3 provides significantly more information that will assist the taxpayer in truly understanding what they will pay for and what they are currently paying from prior levies. This calculator asks only for income, property value, and RTA and presents an accurate and straightforward picture of the total cost on the taxpayer.
The resulting calculation provides the taxpayer with the following information:
- The additional new yearly tax you will pay with ST3.
- The yearly total tax you’re already paying for ST2 and Sound Move (ST1).
- The grand total Sound Transit taxes you will pay: ST1+ST2+ST3.
- The grand total you’ll pay 25 over years with ST3.
The Smarter Transit calculator plainly identifies that (in this case) ST 3 by itself costs more than both ST2 and Sound Move combined, which you are already paying for. Also it shows the total amount of the new and old levy will be a 133% increase in annual payments. And finally, it spells out the total actual cost to the taxpayer over the “initial” term of the proposed levy.
It seems that Sound Transit itself is uncomfortable with the actual impact of ST3 on the taxpayer since they’re trying to hide what they are actually seeking to take from that taxpayer. This behavior is worrisome from a public authority that is requesting a record-breaking sum of money that will impact taxpayers and city governments in three counties virtually forever, since they can collect the tax as long as they are building, maintaining, replacing Board approved projects and paying off debt (bonds). Does the Sound Transit board not see the financial situations facing the state and the taxpayer or are they only interested in funding their legacy projects with ST3 so their attorneys, PR firms, construction companies, equipment manufacturers and other insider friends have a guaranteed pay check for the next 25 years (or longer)?
Growing up I was told that when spending money carefully examine the numbers, because figures don’t lie, but liars figure! By putting out misleading tools like the tax calculator, Sound Transit is intentionally trying to trick the public, while asking for an astronomical sum of money to embark on a quarter century of work after failing to deliver on previous promises. Until sound transit can function in a more transparent and trustworthy fashion, there is no way the public should support ST3.
Please calculate your own taxes using both Sound Transit’s and the People for Smarter Transit-NoST3 calculator and see for yourself.
[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil, cite your sources and, pending our review, we’ll consider publishing it.]