The Link Transit board of directors will not repeal a portion of a sales tax approved by voters in 2019 after some board members suggested it should be put before voters again. 

Public comment at this week's board meeting was unified in strong support of the tax. 

Cashmere resident Robert Kirkland said he voted against the 2019 ballot measure but thinks the transit board has no right to undermine the majority who passed the tax. 

"They deserve to be represented by people they voted for, and not for you to just throw that stuff around because you're so much smarter than everybody else and you know so much more," said Kirkland. "It's ridiculous. All of you that are voting against it should be ashamed of yourself as politicians." 

At a transit board meeting in July of last year, board members sparred for more than an hour on whether the transit was fulfilling its mission or reaching goals set forth when the tax was approved in 2019 under “Vision 2020.” 

Some skeptical board members at the time - including Douglas County commissioners Marc Straub and Kyle Steinburg along with Rock Island mayor Randy Agnew - questioned whether real progress toward meeting the goals was being established and pointed out that some services had been downsized since 2019. 

At the time, Straub said he wanted to send the issue back to voters because the transit was underperforming 

In 2019, the voters approved a proposition to increase Link’s sales tax appropriation by 0.2%.  It phased in the increase, with 0.1% on January 1, 2020, followed by 0.1% on January 1, 2024. The measure passed by a 54 percent margin 

The second 0.1% increase is what the board grappled with last year. 

After downsizing during the pandemic, Link Transit budgeted for 96 operators in 2022 but only had approximately 82 last December. Since then, the transit has moved up to 105 operators and has budgeted for 114. 

Last July, the board tabled any movement on a public vote to repeal the tax until the March meeting held this week. 

Public comment at this week’s meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of the tax. Several dozen people made comments in person along with some who attended through Zoom. Staff also read letters from residents who were also in favor of keeping the tax. 

During a discussion among board members after the comment period, Link Transit director Nick Covey said repealing the tax would lead to a downsizing of services, among other things. 

"We provide service on Sunday," said Covey. “That has been highly successful. But that would probably go away. It's just one of those things that costs a lot to provide that service." 

Chelan County commissioner Kevin Overbay introduced a motion to maintain the Link Transit sales tax and not revisit the topic until June of 2026, or until Link completes its "Vision 2020" plan the tax was designed to fund.  

Overbay's motion passed unanimously, including the board member who had previously pushed for the tax to go before voters again. 

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Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart

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