When Washingtonians see Tim Eyman is involved in yet another initiative they know there is a real fight coming. Eyman entered the political scene in 1998 with his involvement in the anti-affirmative action I-200, but he really made headlines in 1999 when he was successful in getting I-722 passed limiting the motor vehicle excise tax to an arbitrary $30 charge. The initiative was later declared unconstitutional but the Washington State legislature later passed a similar law fearing backlash from the voters. The cut in car tab fees reduced the state tax revenues buy 7% and resulted in large cuts in transit including King County Metro Transit, Washington State Ferries and slashed funding for highway and road construction in the state.
Twelve years and sixteen initiative campaigns later (including four other anti-transit) Tim Eyman is attacking transit yet again with I-1125 or the “Protect Gas-Taxes and Toll-Revenues Act”. This initiative is being sold as an attempt to keep money collected from gas and vehicle taxes from being used on “non-transportation” uses and to keep any tolls collected on roads or bridges could only be used for construction, operation, and maintenance of that particular road or bridge.
What I-1125 actually enacts is legislation that would:
- Make the Washington State Legislature responsible for setting all tolls instead of the Washington State Transit Commission. This is a back handed way of keeping tolls from increasing or being adjusted for ANY reason because, due to I-1053, a toll increase would need a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass. This provision would also disallow the variable rate tolls that are a significant part of the traffic reduction plan for 520 bridge and future tolls on the I-90 bridge. And according to the state Office of Financial Management would make bonds secured against the toll revenue “prohibitively expensive” sabotaging planned bridge and road projects including the I-90 expansion.
- Specifically prevents I-90 tolls from being used for any purpose other than paying for the bridge and capital improvement costs. This means any funding generated by tolls couldn’t be used to help fund the new 520 bridge, which could cause a $2 billion shortfall.
- Prevent the use of the I-90 bridge for an extension of light rail to Bellevue. This is the result of the provision that bars the “transfer” of highway lanes to non-highway purposes. This flies in the face of the original 1976 agreement that created the I-90 bridge which states that it should be constructed to allow part or all of the roadway to be converted to “fixed guideway” use as well as the 2004 Amendment that reiterates that the I-90 bridge was designed to have “high-capacity transit”, such as light rail, as a part of its ultimate configuration. The expansion of light rail to Bellevue is a significant part of the regional transit plan and its loss would be a major problem to regional transit design. It also bears noting that Bellevue light rail opponent Kemper Freeman over $1 million to the I-1125 campaign.
To sum things up: Vote NO on I-1125 if you care at all about the future of transportation in King County and Washington state; Vote NO if you are pro-transit and want workable alternatives to driving your car; and Vote NO if you think we should be working now to make sure our future transportation needs are met.
You should have reveived your Washington State and King County Voter’s Guides in the mail. If not you can get online versions from the sites linked above.
The triumvirate of Progressive Voter’s Guides:
- The thoughtful and comprehensive FUSE Washington Progressive Voter’s Guide
- The irreverent Stranger voter’s guide
- The unabashedly blunt Eat the State voter’s guide