NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Mainstream Republicans of Washington declare opposition to Tim Eyman’s 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.

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