O’Ban bill cosponsored by Democrats fights for taxpayer oversight of Sound Transit

OLYMPIA…In a 2019 bill introduced this week, Sen. Steve O’Ban continues his fight for greater accountability for Sound Transit and to bring down the Sound Transit tax burden.

Since the regional transit authority spends more than $54 billion in tax dollars, more than some small countries, O’Ban and fellow Senators on both sides of the aisle are fighting to require that those who serve on Sound Transit’s board be elected by a vote of the people.

Senate Bill 5220 would establish a five-member commission, appointed by the governor, to define the 11 voting districts as soon as possible, but no later than Dec. 31, 2019. Candidates for the board positions must be registered voters who do not hold public office and who reside in a different district. A member would serve a term of four years, but would lose their position on the board if they moved out of district.

“Since the founding of our country, we’ve insisted on taxation with representation. It’s in our DNA as Americans. We even fought a war over it,” said O’Ban, R-University Place. “So it’s indefensible to give taxation power to Sound Transit over our residences, car tabs and sales tax when its board is not elected by the people. Taxpayers in counties that fund Sound Transit’s projects should have a direct say in its operations.”

SB 5220, which is O’Ban’s fourth effort to rein in Sound Transit’s taxing authority through taxpayer oversight, is cosponsored by fellow Pierce County Republicans Sen. Randi Becker and Sen. Hans Zeiger, but also by Sen. Palumbo and Sen. Conway, both Democrats.

“I’ve fought for this for several years and I’ve had support on the other side of the aisle. But, this is the first time I’ve had Democrat cosponsorship. It’s time for Sound Transit to answer to taxpayers.”

“I support the bill not because I think the Sound Transit Board members are bad people. I know many of them, and they are wonderful public servants,” said Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby. “This is simply a matter of good governance in my opinion. I believe any agency with $54 billion in taxing authority is too important to wall off from the voters. The board should be directly elected and accountable to the people.”