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Wednesday, September 19, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Snohomish County: Transit sales tax pushing ahead

Seattle Times staff reporter

Voters last night were approving Snohomish County's proposed sales-tax increase for expanded transit service.

If Proposition 1 passes, it will increase the county's sales tax by 3 cents on every $10 purchase, enabling Community Transit (CT) to restore service it eliminated last year after the passage of Initiative 695.

I-695, which led to a cut in auto-license fees to a flat $30 per vehicle, cost CT more than $18 million per year, or about 30 percent of its operating budget.

CT plans to restore Sunday service, buy more van-pool vehicles and expand its park-and-ride facilities if voters approve Proposition 1. If they don't, CT expects to eliminate Saturday bus routes and dial-a-ride van runs, among other services. Proponents estimate the measure, which needs a simple majority to pass, would raise $17.5 million to $18 million more per year for CT operations.

"We're just elated," said Pat Cordova, CT board chairwoman and a Mountlake Terrace city councilwoman, of the voting numbers. "This is exciting for Snohomish County."

The measure has attracted broad support, with endorsements from the County Council, the Snohomish County Economic Development Council and city councils in Edmonds, Mukilteo and Mountlake Terrace.

Uncounted absentee votes could affect the outcome. Only about 50,000 were counted last night and the county expects to count up to 25,000 more by Friday. An official opponent to Proposition 1 emerged just two weeks ago, when Washington Citizens for a Sound Economy announced its position against the measure.

The group — a chapter of a national nonprofit organization that promotes free-market solutions to public-policy problems — believes CT could save money by being more efficient, according to state director Gary Strannigan, a former state senator.

If voters approve the 0.3 percentage-point tax increase, Snohomish County will have the state's highest sales tax, 8.9 percent.

Janet Burkitt can be reached at (206) 515-5689, or at jburkitt@seattletimes.com.

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