Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Local voters didn't just embrace the Valley Transit bus system on Tuesday, they gave it a big ol' bear hug.
And, in doing so, the people of this Valley showed they are compassionate and caring. More than 76 percent of voters favored raising the sales tax by three-tenths of one percent, which will give Valley Transit enough money so it can continue to operate without having to make dramatic cuts in service.
It's simply amazing Valley Transit garnered so much support for a tax increase in the midst of a severe economic recession. Times are tough and have been so for a long time.
Six months ago, when the idea of raising taxes was first brought up, we believed it was a mistake. We said, emphatically, voters will not approve raising the sales tax to fill Valley Transit's budget gap.
But we were way -- way -- off. Valley Transit supporters did a masterful job of explaining to the public (and to us) why the additional funding was necessary to keep the bus system healthy. The tone of the campaign was friendly and information it got out was understandable.
It was made clear that Valley Transit's managers and board of directors have been extremely efficient in running the bus system for the past decade.
In 1999 voters statewide approved Initiative 695, which did away with the motor vehicle excise tax. As a result, Valley Transit and other transit systems lost half of their operating revenue.
Nearly all of the bus systems went to voters in a relatively short time seeking the higher sales tax to fill the gap. Valley Transit didn't.
The budget was cut and spending reduced. The service provided was trimmed to a level that would allow the bus system to serve the community with supplements from state and federal grants.
Unfortunately, the recession hit and sales tax revenue dipped significantly. Sales tax collections went down and the likelihood of future federal grants disappeared.
Valley Transit had little choice but to ask voters to double the sales tax. If the voters said no, then bus service would be cut in half.
Well, voters enthusiastically agreed to take on the additional tax burden to keep the bus system running at a level to meet the transportation needs of all.
Many in this community don't have cars or can't drive and depend on Valley Transit for their transportation needs.