BFT Votes NOT To Reduce Sales Tax, What Are $$ Facts?
The Ben Franklin Transit board has voted not to reduce a sales tax, a move praised by union leaders and others. But a previous study shows it's not really needed.
BFT will not reduce sales tax
According to KVEW-TV, the BFT board voted 7-2 to not lower a sales tax from $0.06 to $0.05 percent, which would have saved taxpayers money. Part of the reason it was suggested by Commissioner Will McKay and others is that Benton and Franklin County Commissioners recently approved a sales and use tax to help fund a new Mental Health Recovery Center. The lowering of one tax would offset the other.
According to KVEW-TV, BFT, and union officials as well as a group called the Transportation Choices Coalition claimed the reduction would have resulted in dozens of layoffs and made BFT ineligible for a Move Ahead Washington grant that will funnel millions into various public transit entities over the next decade or two.
However, a previous report shows BFT has more than enough cash
A report released on April 6th by the Washington Policy Center entitled "Don't Buy the Crisis Peddling, Ben Franklin Transit Can Afford the Tax Cut" clearly shows BFT has a lot more money than they let on, and declining ridership does not justify more money.
Mariya Frost, Director for the Coles Center for Transportation, writes about BFT:
"At their last board meeting in early March, BFT reported that the agency saw an incredible growth of 22% in sales tax revenue from 2020 to 2021."
In the article, she notes that some board members suggested the 0.06 to 0.05 tax cut due to these revenues. However, that proposal was voted down, and it will not go to voters this late summer or November.
According to Frost (from her article):
"Since 2010, Ben Franklin Transit revenue has increased 47% (inflation adjusted), while ridership plunged -64%. While some of that decrease was exacerbated by COVID, transit lobbyists like to omit the fact that ridership was decreasing in years prior. From 2010 to 2019, ridership at BFT decreased 38%."
In addition, BFT has taken in considerable Federal relief dollars, between the CARES Act, The CSSRA (act) and the American Rescue plan, it totals just over $48 million dollars.
It appears on one hand, publicly, BFT and supporters claim jobs would have been lost and services affected, yet the facts and figures from their own records indicate otherwise.
The vote to not cut the tax was praised by the leadership of Teamsters Local Union No. 839 who represent the bus drivers for BFT.
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