Mainstream Republicans Oppose I-976
Mainstream Republicans Oppose I-976

Every day, the coali­tion work­ing to defeat Tim Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive I‑976 just gets big­ger, stronger, and more diverse.

The lat­est evi­dence of the coali­tion’s grow­ing strength came yes­ter­day, when the Main­stream Repub­li­cans of Wash­ing­ton announced that they have tak­en a posi­tion oppos­ing the mea­sure, one of two ini­tia­tives on this year’s statewide ballot.

I‑976 is “a mis­di­rect­ed attack on local­ly approved and crit­i­cal­ly need­ed funds to address traf­fic con­ges­tion and safe­ty around Wash­ing­ton State,” the orga­ni­za­tion stat­ed in a press release out­lin­ing its position.

I‑976 would repeal $4.2 bil­lion in bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved trans­porta­tion invest­ments over the next six years. Already approved fund­ing for tran­sit expan­sion, bridge replace­ment, the State Patrol, Amtrak Cas­cades, freight mobil­i­ty projects, and road main­te­nance in over six­ty cities would be wiped out.

Main­stream Repub­li­cans Chair Mike Vas­ka, an attor­ney who helped lead the cam­paign oppos­ing Tim Eyman’s I‑695 twen­ty years ago, empha­sized that I‑976 would over­turn deci­sions made at the local lev­el by vot­ers and city officials.

“It’s pret­ty obvi­ous that we need to improve our trans­porta­tion sys­tem to address grid­lock and unsafe roads and bridges,” said Vas­ka. “Some six­ty com­mu­ni­ties around our state, from Ana­cortes to Zil­lah, have agreed to tax them­selves to fix their trans­porta­tion chal­lenges. The State should not be allowed to over­ride their local deci­sions, many of which were by direct votes of the people.”

Those local deci­sions were made pos­si­ble by a state statute that autho­rizes city and coun­ty gov­ern­ments to form what are known as trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­tricts, or TBDs. Tim Eyman is seek­ing to repeal that statute and take away the author­i­ty of city-cre­at­ed TBDs to raise rev­enue for local roads and bet­ter bus ser­vice with I‑976.

Unlike Eyman, Vas­ka believes home rule should be respected.

“Main­stream Repub­li­cans believe that local and state gov­ern­ment should be fis­cal­ly respon­si­ble with the tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey,” Vaska’s state­ment adds. “Invest­ing to repair roads, to make sure that bridges are safe, and to address traf­fic con­ges­tion is some­thing that has bipar­ti­san sup­port, includ­ing from Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors around the state, because it is a wise invest­ment in our future.”

Vas­ka con­clud­ed by observ­ing: “While there may be legit­i­mate ques­tions about the account­abil­i­ty of how some trans­porta­tion funds are spent in some areas, the rest of the state should not be pun­ished for those con­cerns. We don’t want to throw the prover­bial baby out with the bathwater.”

NPI con­grat­u­lates and thanks the Main­stream Repub­li­cans of Wash­ing­ton for tak­ing a stand against I‑976 and demon­strat­ing that this ill-con­ceived mea­sure has strong bipar­ti­san opposition.

It’s not the first time, either: Main­stream actu­al­ly has a much appre­ci­at­ed track record of oppos­ing Eyman ini­tia­tives that would hurt Wash­ing­ton’s future.

Ten years ago, MRW helped defeat Eyman’s I‑1033 and four years ago, it was part of the coali­tion that fought Eyman’s hostage-tak­ing I‑1366.

MRW has played a con­struc­tive role in Wash­ing­ton State pol­i­tics for near­ly half a cen­tu­ry. Its Cas­cade Con­fer­ence is one of the old­est con­tin­u­ous­ly held polit­i­cal gath­er­ings any­where in the coun­try. MRW will cel­e­brate Cas­cade’s fifti­eth anniver­sary on Octo­ber 30th with a gala at the SeaT­ac Hilton.

In addi­tion to Vas­ka, MRW’s board includes for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Sam Reed, for­mer Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Louise Miller, and for­mer State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sid Mor­ri­son, all of whom are great­ly respect­ed by our team at NPI for their con­tri­bu­tions to Wash­ing­ton State’s well-being.

When it comes to Repub­li­can pol­i­tics, the Main­stream Repub­li­cans are like a light in the dark­ness. They believe they can be a pos­i­tive influ­ence on their par­ty at a time when many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans have giv­en up on it for under­stand­able reasons.

We admire their persistence.

The Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty used to be the par­ty of Dan Evans and the late John Spell­man. Sad­ly, today, it’s turned into the par­ty of Don­ald Trump and Tim Eyman. The Evans/Spellman lega­cy does live on, though, through the work of the Main­stream Repub­li­cans of Wash­ing­ton. Per­haps one day, the Grand Old Par­ty will reclaim that noble lega­cy. Until then, Main­stream will have to safe­guard it.

By oppos­ing Tim Eyman’s I‑976, MRW is demon­strat­ing that there is still a prag­mat­ic wing of the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty, even if it’s not in charge. Nice going, Main­stream Repub­li­cans! Let’s get I‑976 defeated.

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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