Link light rail in Mount Baker Station
A Central Link light rail train pulls into the Mount Baker Station (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

In response to media inquiries about the impacts that Tim Eyman’s lat­est self-serv­ing, tran­sit sab­o­tag­ing statewide ini­tia­tive would have on its vot­er-approved light rail, express bus, com­muter rail, and bus rapid tran­sit projects, Sound Tran­sit today released a state­ment esti­mat­ing that the mea­sure, if imple­ment­ed, would wipe out near­ly $7 bil­lion in vot­er-approved rev­enue through 2041.

But that would­n’t be the extent of the dam­age. Since Sound Tran­sit reg­u­lar­ly bor­rows mon­ey to finance the projects vot­ers have autho­rized it to build, there would be addi­tion­al costs. The motor vehi­cle excise tax rev­enue the agency col­lects under ST3 is pledged to bonds, which I‑976 attempts to forcibly defease.

And, of course, that’s not all. Sound Tran­sit’s rep­u­ta­tion with investors could be seri­ous­ly harmed. The agen­cy’s care­ful­ly earned, ster­ling cred­it rat­ing might take a big hit if I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, jeop­ar­diz­ing even more of its projects.

Here’s the full state­ment from Sound Tran­sit pro­vid­ed to the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, KING5, and oth­er media out­lets regard­ing I‑976:

If enact­ed and enforced, the mea­sure would elim­i­nate a pro­ject­ed $6.95 bil­lion in Sound Tran­sit MVET rev­enues fore­cast­ed through 2041.

How­ev­er, the scope of the finan­cial impact would be much greater than that. The ini­tia­tive con­tains pro­vi­sions that, if enforced, seek to man­date Sound Tran­sit change the use of local tax­es from fund­ing vot­er-approved tran­sit projects and ser­vices to the retire­ment of pre­vi­ous­ly issued bond debt and TIFIA loans up to forty years ear­li­er than required in the bond and loan agreements.

Sound Tran­sit is ana­lyz­ing the scope of the fur­ther reduc­tion in the agency’s fund­ing sources and finan­cial capac­i­ty that would result from divert­ing tax rev­enues to retir­ing debt ear­ly, as well as from reduced bor­row­ing avail­able under a low­er tax rev­enue base and from hav­ing to pay high­er inter­est rates.

If enact­ed, the ini­tia­tive would divert a sig­nif­i­cant amount of tax rev­enues away from imple­ment­ing vot­er-approved tran­sit projects.

These projects include build­ing out a one hun­dred and six­teen mile light rail sys­tem that reach­es Taco­ma, Everett, down­town Red­mond, West Seat­tle, Bal­lard, South Kirk­land, and Issaquah; estab­lish­ing bus rapid tran­sit along the north, east, and south sides of Lake Wash­ing­ton; and expand­ing Sounder com­muter rail service.

The projects can­not be built as planned with­out the rev­enue and finan­cial capac­i­ty pro­vid­ed by the motor vehi­cle tax.

As a pub­lic agency, Sound Tran­sit can­not and will not take a posi­tion on Tim Eyman’s I‑976. How­ev­er, Sound Tran­sit does have an oblig­a­tion to the peo­ple it serves to respond to requests for infor­ma­tion about leg­is­la­tion or poten­tial bal­lot mea­sures that could impact its work, which is exact­ly what it is doing here.

NPI urges all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who val­ue free­dom of mobil­i­ty to join the coali­tion that is com­ing togeth­er in oppo­si­tion to Tim Eyman’s destruc­tive I‑976. Indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions may for­mal­ly join the coali­tion by sub­mit­ting this form.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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