One of the phrases Tim Eyman frequently uses to describe the anti-tolling, anti-light rail scheme that he purchased a public vote on (with Kemper Freeman Jr.‘s money) is “Son of 1053”. To hear Eyman tell it, 1053 closes a purported loophole that he left in his own unconstitutional initiative last year — the loophole being the absence of a provision restricting what the Legislature can do with tolls.
I‑1053 does include a provision requiring that fees be approved by the state Legislature. Eyman initially thought that provision would preclude the Legislature from delegating its toll-setting authority to the State Transportation Commission, or allowing agencies to raise fees on their own.
But an opinion issued by the office of Eyman’s good friend Rob McKenna last December held that while I‑1053 did take away the Transportation Commission’s power to set tolls, no statute could restrict the Legislature from delegating its authority. So, during the 2011 session, state lawmakers voted to re-empower the Transportation Commission to set tolls. Eyman filed I‑1125 in response, but the measure did not move forward until Eyman received a guarantee of funding from Kemper Freeman, Jr. to pay for the signature drive.
As it turns out, some of the corporations that supported I‑1053 financially last year are not enamored with Eyman’s “Son of 1053” measure.
They like I‑1053 because the language of the initiative has been interpreted to mean that the repeal of any tax exemption constitutes a tax increase, which is (unconstitutionally) subject to a two-thirds vote under I‑1053. As long as I‑1053 is in effect, all that corporations have to do is convince the Senate’s seventeen most conservative senators to vote against any bill that would eliminate a loophole they enjoy. I‑1053 is basically a corporate welfare racket.
But they don’t like I‑1125 because I‑1125 would mess with the financing for highway projects that they care about.
Because Washington drivers have collectively been buying fewer gallons of gasoline per year than in previous years, the gas tax is bringing in less revenue than it used to. This trend is projected to continue. That’s why the state is beginning to collect tolls on SR 520 even before the new bridge is built; the tolls are needed to secure bonds for the construction of the new bridge.
Eyman’s I‑1125 would blow a hole in this long-agreed financing plan, as State Treasurer Jim McIntire has put it.
So major Washington employers are stepping up to fund the NO on I‑1125 campaign… including some that donated to I‑1053 last year.
Microsoft (which did not donate to I‑1053 last year), is particularly enthusiastic about beating I‑1125. The company — which, like NPI, calls Redmond home — has already donated $100,000 to the cause. Puget Sound Energy, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Pemco have all made five-figure contributions.
But so have Weyerhauser ($25,000 to NO on 1125), Port Blakely Tree Farms ($10,000 to NO on 1125), and the Green Diamond Resource Company ($10,000 to NO on 1125). All wrote five-figure checks to help Eyman only a few seasons ago. Now they’ve written five-figure checks to the campaign working to beat Eyman.
What a difference a year makes.
The conservative Association of Washington Business, which lined up much of I‑1053’s corporate support and calls itself the state’s chamber of commerce, has also decided to oppose I‑1125. As far as the AWB is concerned:
Initiative 1125 would jeopardize construction and funding for multiple major transportation projects, including the Columbia River crossing in Vancouver and the 520 bridge in Seattle, and that just means more delays and traffic headaches for Washington drivers. AWB members also believe variable tolling is a necessary part of today’s transportation infrastructure projects, and that it would be better to have the Legislature set up a commission to set the tolls and tolling criteria than keeping those decisions with lawmakers in Olympia.
I‑1125’s supporters include Eyman and his band of followers, Kemper Freeman, Jr., and the Washington State Republican Party, Eyman’s most dependable endorser. That’s about the extent of the Yes on I‑1125 forces.
NPI strongly opposes I‑1125 and urges a no vote on the measure this autumn.