Initiative 976 on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot imagines a fantasy world in which Washington’s highways, roads and bridges either come without cost or are already and forevermore complete.
Instead, an adequate and efficient transportation system that is the foundation of the state’s economy depends on funding from vehicle fees that would be gutted by I-976. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a “no” vote on the measure.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. But the editorial board believes that voters who take a close look at the measure will agree that it would negatively impact our state.
Proposed by anti-tax maven Tim Eyman, I-976 would cap vehicle registration fees at $30 and would not allow local jurisdictions to increase them without voter approval. Like any tax-reduction proposal, the measure has populist appeal; who wouldn’t like lower taxes? But it ignores the reality that a robust economy requires money to maintain and upgrade infrastructure.
Passage of I-976 would short the statewide transportation budget, including highway construction and the Washington State Patrol, by an estimated $4 billion over the next decade. In Vancouver alone, the city would lose more than half the $9 million it spends annually to carry out its street funding strategy; it also would miss out on transportation grants that require local matching funds. Ryan Lopossa, the city’s streets and transportation manager, said: “To put things in perspective, in 2018 we garnered about $8.5 million in grant funding. We’d really lose the ability to chase those grants.”