Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Eastern Washington will get shafted if I-912 passes

One of the reasons that the Initiative 912 was able to come up with a huge cushion of signatures for the ballot in such a short period of time was that much of the help seems to have come out of Eastern Washington.

While some Republicans (and many Republican business backers) strongly support the gas tax increase, most of the base seem to want it repealed at all costs.

A few reports indicate that the Republican Party apparatus in Eastern Washington was heavily utilized.


It's pretty likely that most of Eastern Washington will vote in support of Initiative 912 - or, at least a majority will - based on voting patterns over the last several years on Eyman initiatives and Referendum 51.

Which is why the following appeared in Neil Modie's article in the P-I this morning:
Ed Murray, state House transportation committee chairman, predicted that if the initiative passes, "the result will be another initiative, to only spend transportation taxes in the counties where they are raised." Or, he said, it could be attempted by legislation.

In the past 10 years, Murray said, the state's three largest counties, King, Pierce and Snohomish, have generated $1 billion in tax revenue for transportation projects for the 29 smallest counties. If such revenue remains in the counties in which it is generated, it could benefit the biggest counties and starve the transportation needs of rural counties.

"I'm hearing from frustrated small-business owners and citizens in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties who are saying we need to stop sending our (tax) money to Eastern Washington and other parts of Washington; we need to keep money in counties where it is raised," said Murray, D-Seattle.
Attention citizens of Eastern Washington: This is a fair warning. You support Initiative 912 at your own peril and at your own risk.

If the gas tax is repealed, there's a good chance that Murray's prediction will come true. Eastern Washington will simply be discarded and left to its own devices - left to rot, and thanks to its own citizens - people who seem to think that they'll be able to repair their own roadways with the fifty bucks or whatever small amount they'll save per year.

These folks are living in an alternate reality. They benefit way more then they give, and yet they still want to repeal the gas tax increase.

The list of projects planned by WSDOT for many of these counties east of the Cascades is simply huge, but nobody in Eastern Washington seems to get that. Here's a list of the projects in one county, courtesy of WSDOT:

Yakima County
$47.8 million
  • Reconfigure the Valley Mall Blvd interchange to relieve congestion and improve traffic flow and reduce collisions ($24.6 million).
  • Reconstructing and widening roadways, adding traffic signals and sideways to th Wenas Corridor of SR 823 near Selah. Improvements will reduce congestion, improve freight mobility and increase safety for motorists and pedestrians ($7.3 million).
  • Construct two underpasses, located at Lincoln Avenue and B Street from 1st Ave to 1st Street. The underpasses will construct three lanes on each roadway under the BNSF mainlines. This project will enhance movement of truck freight traffic, emergency vehicles and the movement of vehicles into and out of the downtown area ($7 million).
  • Replace the existing SR 241 Dry Creek bridge north of Sunnyside with a new bridge designed to current standards ($2 million).
  • Add a second eastbound on-ramp lane onto US 12 and make interchange terminal improvements. This project will improve the interchange operation and increase motorist safety ($2 million).
  • Make roadside safety improvements along US 12 in west Yakima County such as installing guardrails and removing fixed objects to enhance motorist safety by reducing the severity of collisions ($1.9 million).
  • Address repetitive bank erosion and slope failures affecting US 12 along the Lower Naches River ($1.6 million).
  • Replace the existing US 12 and Tieton River West crossing west of Naches with a new bridge designed to current standards ($600,000).
  • Replace the existing UW 12 and Tieton River East crossing west of Naches with a new bridge desgined to current standards ($400,000).
  • Stabilize the Naches River bank along SR 410 at Rattlesnake Creek to address repetitive erosion ($300,000).
  • Construct a sidewalk on the east side of SR 823 in Selah from the intersection of Goodlander Road to Harrison Road, completing a direct pedestrian connection from parks and schools to Harrison Road ($100,000).
  • SR 24/SR 241 to Cold Creek Road. Add an additional lane in the eastbound direction to reduce collisions ($3.8 million).
  • Making roadside safety improvements like installing guardrails or removing fixed objects to enhance motorist safety by reducing the severity of collisions on SR 241 and SR 821 ($1.1 million between Yakima and Kittitas Counties).
Many in Eastern Washington - backers of I-912 - seem to think they're simply sending money to Seattle to replace the viaduct and the 520 floating bridge.

That's not true. The promoters of this initiative - notably KVI's John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur - do not bother to acknowledge the gas tax increase helps Eastern Washington immensely.

Instead, they fill their campaign website with misleading and false propoganda.

If I-912 passes, the main consequence will probably be to raise local taxes instead and keep the money mostly in Puget Sound.

Those of you in Eastern Washington who understand the danger had better start educating as many of your fellow citizens as you possibly can. If Initiative 912 passes, the citizens of Eastern Washington are going to get shafted.

Many cities over there are already facing financial problems. It's only going to get worse. Roads are going to fall into disrepair. Needed safety improvements won't be made. Potential jobs will not be provided.

The wise realize that our government provides many valuable services - services that we cannot ourselves provide - and that tax dollars pay for these services. Therefore, taxes are wise and useful investments - much sounder investments then any investment in a stock market exchange.

The unwise simply believe that government wastes their money, and they don't want to give "that government" a single cent. The unwise are shortsighted.

We cannot allow the unwise to spread false information about the gas tax increase. We must stand up for our good values: a stronger America, a better future, a more effective government, broad prosperity, and mutual responsibility.

If we communicate our values clearly and change the discussion from the cost of the gas tax to what it actually does, people will realize what's at stake, and many will decide to vote against Initiative 912.

We have a challenge. Let's rise up and meet it - and work to defeat Initiative 912.

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