Keep Washington Rolling, the broad coalition fighting to defeat Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125, has launched its final television ad of the campaign, with Election Day only a few hundred hours away.
The spot, titled “Too Costly”, stars State Treasurer Jim McIntire, who ably summarizes the consequences of Tim Eyman’s latest scheme.
“As State Treasurer, I rarely take positions on initiatives,” McIntire says as the ad opens. “But Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125 is just too costly to ignore.”
He goes on to explain: “1125 would wipe out more than half a billion dollars from current transportation projects. Or, 1125 would lead to millions more in higher costs on future safety and congestion projects — forcing us to choose either canceling critical projects or higher taxes to make up the gap.”
He concludes: “That’s a bad deal for Washington. NO on 1125.”
We wholeheartedly agree. Washington just can’t afford any more of Tim Eyman’s destructive, cynical, ill-conceived initiatives. 1125 is so harmful and so poorly written that even many of the corporations that selfishly backed Eyman’s 1053 last year have donated money to help run ads against 1125 this year. (Those corporations include Bank of America, Weyerhaeuser, Alaska Airlines, and many others).
We already know that the gas tax isn’t going to bring in the money we need in the future to take care of our roads and bridges. That’s why we need tolls.
Gas tax revenues are already falling and will continue to fall as electric cars become more common and internal combustion engines become more efficient. People are also finally getting smarter about combining trips, in part because they want to avoid traffic, which can be especially awful during rush hour.
Ford just announced that it will begin selling the new all-electric version of its Focus hatchback in the Seattle area, following in the tire tracks of Nissan, which began selling the all-electric Leaf last year. Vehicles like the Focus and the Leaf don’t run on gas, so their owners are never going to fill them up at a gas station, which means they won’t be paying gas taxes on the trips they take in those vehicles.
While tolls will gradually begin to replace the gas tax in the years ahead, there isn’t going to be any kind of sweeping, overnight change. Tim Eyman makes it sound like the Legislature is going to turn every highway into a turnpike unless 1125 is passed. But that’s not the case. For the time being, tolls are only planned or being collected in corridors where gas tax revenue isn’t sufficient to build a major project, like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge or Evergreen Point Floating Bridge.
Tolls are a sensible way to help fund highway projects. People pay for what they use. Having a toll reminds us all that infrastructure costs money. It isn’t free. We at NPI have always disliked the term freeway, because it subconsciously suggests that driving and automobile use are free. In reality, roads cost money. If we want safe, well-maintained roads and bridges, we have to pay somehow. Tolls don’t have to provide one hundred percent of the revenue, but they have to be in the mix.
Incidentally, this is the way it works with transit and ferries now. Transit riders pay a fare whenever they step aboard a bus or a train (with the current exception of Seattle’s free ride area, which is going away). And of course anyone who drives, walks, or bikes onto a ferry has to pay the fare for the crossing.
Roads shouldn’t be any different.
It’s evident that Tim Eyman really dislikes the idea of having to pay a toll to use a highway. Perhaps he also dislikes tolls because tolling has the potential to undermine his basic message about government.
Eyman does not talk about public policy in terms of the tradeoffs. He prefers to talk about only the revenue side of the equation, which is deceptive, because such a one-sided discussion masks the consequences of adopting his initiatives. Eyman’s initiatives are all built on the false premise that we can have something for nothing.
Eyman is fond of claiming that the sky didn’t fall after two of his early tax-cutting initiatives (I‑695 and I‑747) were adopted. But actually, those initiatives have been just as harmful to our well-being as Eyman’s opposition predicted they would be. We simply didn’t feel the effects all at once due to backfilling.
But the days of backfilling are over.
WSDOT recently announced that construction was beginning on a new one hundred and forty-four car ferry, which will replace the fifty-five year old boat M.V. Evergreen State. The new ferry will be built by Vigor Shipyards in Seattle (formerly Todd Pacific). The news release pointed out that the state actually has a contract with Vigor for three boats, but it only has the money to build one.
This is a consequence of I‑695. If we still had the statewide motor vehicle excise tax, we’d be able to afford those other boats. We’d also probably have the money to fix some of our aging terminals, which are falling apart. But we don’t.
Washington is suffering now because of Tim Eyman initiatives that are more than a decade old. At this moment, we have the power to say NO to another extremely dangerous Tim Eyman initiative. Let’s put the kibosh on this scheme to stop light rail and wreck our ability to fund badly needed road projects.
Vote NO on I‑1125.