Is tolls-focused I-1125 needed? Yes

Yes: Lawmakers need to know hikes in taxes, fees must be last resort

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Identity Clark County director Paul Montague weighs in

No: County will see project costs soar; jobs, road funds will be lost

OFFICIAL BALLOT TITLE:

Initiative Measure No. 1125 concerns state expenditures on transportation.

This measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes, and require that road and bridge tolls be set by the Legislature and be project-specific.

Should this measure be enacted into law?

[ ] Yes

[ ] No

(For more information, visit http://www.sos.wa.gov/elections then click on “2011 General Election Online Voters Guide.”

Olympia still doesn’t get it. Four times the voters have approved initiatives making it tougher for state government to take more of the people’s money. Last year’s Initiative 1053 required a two-thirds legislative vote to raise taxes and majority legislative vote to increase fees. Yet despite getting a huge 64 percent yes vote statewide (over 71 percent in Clark County), Olympia wasted no time violating it. This year’s Initiative 1125 closes loopholes they put in I-1053, reinforcing the message that tax hikes and fee increases must be an absolute last resort, especially during these tough economic times.

Olympia essentially exempted transportation taxes, fees, and tolls from the protections in I-1053. Voters intended all taxes and fees to be subject to limitations and that certainly includes the billions involving transportation.

What protections are we talking about? They’re the basics: I-1125 requires transportation taxes only be used for transportation. Our state imposes one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, collecting billions every year. Before the government double-taxes us with burdensome tolls — forcing us to pay twice — I-1125 stops transportation revenue from being diverted to non-transportation purposes.

I-1125 ensures accountability and transparency.

In the entire history of our state, tolls have always expired after the project is paid for. For nearly 100 years, whether it was the original I-90 bridge, 520 bridge, or Hood Canal Bridge, once a project was paid for, the toll was taken off. But in 2008, Olympia repealed that protection, creating for the first time tolls that will continue forever. That radical change was imposed with little public notice. I-1125 prohibits never-ending tolls, requiring (again) that tolls expire once the project is paid for.

There’s more:

I-1125 ensures that tolls will be used for highway purposes, as always has been the case, prohibiting toll money from being diverted to general fund spending or other non-highway spending such as bicycle lanes, animal crossings, transit, light rail, etc. I-1125 makes sure that tolls on a project pay for the project and nothing else.

I-1125 requires that tolls continue to be the same for everyone — uniform and consistent. Socially engineered variable tolls — charging different people different prices — isn’t fair because it really hits the poor and working-class taxpayers the hardest. We’ve all paid for our roads with our state’s sky-high gas tax — so all of us, not just rich people, deserve access to our transportation system.

Tolls aren’t taxes and I-1125 keeps it that way.

The opponents of I-1125 are the same forces that pushed last year’s state income tax and opposed last year’s tougher-to-raise-taxes 1053. It makes sense. I-1125 simply reinforces voters’ message from last year: that taking more of the people’s money has to be an absolute last resort.

In these tough times, the idea of government taking thousands of dollars per year out of family budgets is really scary. People are hurting, and yet Olympia is nonetheless sneaking forward with “tolls” that are just taxes by another name.

I was born and raised in Yakima and went to Washington State University so I know the values of the “non-Seattle” people in our state. You and I don’t trust Olympia, especially when it comes to taxes and spending. They need to be kept on a short leash. I-1125 reinstates I-1053’s voter-approved protections, closes loopholes, and reinforces existing statutory and constitutional protections. Citizens have to follow the law and abide by the Constitution — the government should too. That’s what I-1125 requires them to do.

In January, Gov. Chris Gregoire said: “I’m not gonna let 1053 stand in the way of me moving forward for what I think is right.” Voters approved Initiative 1053 by a huge margin — don’t let Olympia get away with putting loopholes in it. Vote YES (again).

With our taxpayers, our families, and our economy struggling, it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves by approving Initiative 1125.

Tim Eyman of Mukilteo is one of the co-sponsors of “Son of 1053” I-1125 (www.VotersWantMoreChoices.com.)