Thunbnail of I-976 Impact Map

Next Tues­day evening, just after 8 PM, we’ll start to get an idea of what vot­ers are going to do with Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976, an incred­i­bly destruc­tive statewide mea­sure that would wipe out bil­lions of dol­lars in bipar­ti­san, vot­er approved trans­porta­tion invest­ments at every lev­el… state, region­al, and local.

While much of the cov­er­age of I‑976 has focused on poten­tial impacts to Sound Tran­sit and King Coun­ty Metro in the heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed Puget Sound area, the real­i­ty is that the harm would be much more widespread.

In fact, small rur­al com­mu­ni­ties where anti-tax sen­ti­ment tends to be the strongest would be the hard­est hit, because those places would be simul­ta­ne­ous­ly robbed of already-approved fund­ing plus the author­i­ty to raise funds in the future for neigh­bor­hood trans­porta­tion improve­ments through vehi­cle fees.

In the past few weeks, Wash­ing­ton’s small town news­pa­pers have pub­lished sto­ry after sto­ry look­ing at the projects and ser­vices that would like­ly be elim­i­nat­ed or delayed if I‑976 were to be imple­ment­ed. These sto­ries are worth read­ing to under­stand the mag­ni­tude of the destruc­tion that would be wrought.

Let’s begin our roundup of the local impacts in south­west Wash­ing­ton, where sev­er­al cities are brac­ing for the loss of hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in street main­te­nance fund­ing, plus cuts to bus ser­vice in Cowlitz County:

Ini­tia­tive 976 on the Nov. 5 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot would elim­i­nate Longview’s trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­trict (TBD), which allows the city to impose car tab fees for trans­porta­tion improve­ments. Even with the TBD rev­enue, Longview street main­te­nance is already severe­ly under­fund­ed, accord­ing to consultants.

“We are not pro­vid­ing near enough mon­ey to main­tain streets,” Pub­lic Works Direc­tor Jeff Cameron said last week.

Kel­so, too, would be put in a bind if the mea­sure pass­es, because it would yank the source of funds for projects already undertaken.

Read the whole thing.

I‑976 imple­men­ta­tion would cost Longview $615,000, Kel­so $175,000, and Kala­ma $100,000. Those might not sound like huge sums, but they’re big for small towns in regions of Wash­ing­ton far from the Seat­tle metro area.

Now to South­east Wash­ing­ton: Here’s a sto­ry from the Wal­la Wal­la Union Bul­letin on the impacts to the Palouse area if Ini­tia­tive 976 passes.

Colum­bia Coun­ty Pub­lic Trans­porta­tion, in Day­ton, faces a large bud­get cut with the ini­tia­tive. It could poten­tial­ly lose $1 mil­lion in the first year, which is 40% of the agency’s budget.

“This mon­ey is need­ed to keep the doors open and the bus­es rolling,” said David Ocam­po, the gen­er­al man­ag­er of Colum­bia Coun­ty transit.

Read the whole thing.

A few weeks ago, the Union-Bul­letin pub­lished an equal­ly great piece by Jer­ry Cum­mins that talked about cuts to Val­ley Tran­sit. Wrote Cum­mins:

In the com­ing year, Val­ley Tran­sit is antic­i­pat­ed to receive $394,376 in spe­cial trans­porta­tion needs fund­ing and $177,000 in sales tax equal­iza­tion funds. These funds would be on the chop­ping block to shore up Washington’s mul­ti­modal bud­get for the year.

This fund­ing gap could be antic­i­pat­ed to con­tin­ue with a loss of fund­ing to Wal­la Wal­la Valley’s Pub­lic Tran­sit rang­ing between $350,000 and $400,000 in the years to fol­low based on the amount of fund­ing that would be left after the pas­sage of I‑976.

Read the whole thing.

Mov­ing on to What­com Coun­ty: Here’s a sto­ry from the Belling­ham Her­ald that dis­cuss­es how com­mu­ni­ties near the Cana­di­an bor­der would be hurt by I‑976.

“The most direct impact to What­com Coun­ty will be the loss of (state) Rur­al Arte­r­i­al Trust Account funds for rur­al arte­r­i­al main­te­nance and Motor Vehi­cle Account funds for the Lum­mi Island fer­ry,” said Joe Rutan, coun­ty engi­neer and assis­tant direc­tor of pub­lic works. “The poten­tial largest impact will be the lack of avail­able grant funds to accom­plish much-need­ed pedes­tri­an and bicy­cle improvements.”

Read the whole thing.

The near­by San Juans would be in a sim­i­lar boat (pun intend­ed). I‑976 would be dis­as­trous for Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries, as the Islands’ Sounder report­ed:

Jim Coren­man, chair of the San Juan Coun­ty Fer­ry Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee, [said:] “I‑976, if passed, would be a dis­as­ter for most tran­sit modes oth­er than cars. Giv­en WSF’s cur­rent $45 mil­lion bien­ni­um allo­ca­tion from the mul­ti­modal account — about 9 per­cent of its oper­at­ing income — sig­nif­i­cant ser­vice reduc­tions and/or fare increas­es are like­ly.” Coren­man notes that pas­sage of Eyman’s I‑695 in 2000 result­ed in near­ly dou­bled fare increas­es over the fol­low­ing years, and halt­ed new ves­sel con­struc­tion for the next decade.

Read the whole thing.

To the south, Island Coun­ty, which con­sists of Whid­bey Island and most of Camano Island, would also be a big los­er. Via the Whid­bey News-Times:

If I‑976 pass­es, the state would lose $4.2 bil­lion in trans­porta­tion fund­ing over six years. The rev­enue for the mul­ti-modal account that funds Island Tran­sit would lose an esti­mat­ed $1.5 bil­lion, a cut of about 70 per­cent. Island Tran­sit received about 17 per­cent of its annu­al rev­enues from the mul­ti-modal fund, which amounts to $3.27 mil­lion this year, accord­ing to Island Transit.

The funds that would be in jeop­ardy are $1.8 mil­lion for bus ser­vice, more than $600,000 for para­tran­sit ser­vice, $340,000 for coun­ty con­nec­tors and about $500,000 for replace­ment van­pool vans, Island Tran­sit reported.

Read the whole thing.

In Cov­ing­ton, which is clos­er to Wash­ing­ton State’s urban cen­ter, near­ly half a mil­lion in annu­al street fund­ing could be lost. Via the Cov­ing­ton Reporter:

“If I‑976 passed we would lose about $400,000 a year in rev­enues that goes strict­ly to our roads,” Cov­ing­ton May­or Jeff Wag­n­er said. “So our bud­get work­shops are held int he last Sat­ur­day of Octo­ber. We pushed it to Novem­ber 16th. We’re wait­ing till after the elec­tion … there is no rea­son to have a bud­get work­shop to have to come back to change things if we have a $400,000 shortfall.”

The loss of the year­ly $400,000 would be a blow to the city since the mon­ey from the car tabs is used specif­i­cal­ly for main­te­nance and upkeep on the roads. Wag­n­er said when it comes to build­ing new roads or infra­struc­ture, the city is able to receive state and fed­er­al grants to help ease the budget’s burdens.

Read the whole thing.

In Yaki­ma, it’s a sim­i­lar sto­ry. The Yaki­ma Her­ald-Repub­lic recent­ly pub­lished a deep dive on how I‑976 could hurt the Heart of Cen­tral Washington:

Funds col­lect­ed through the addi­tion­al reg­is­tra­tion fee go into a trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­trict for cities.

Yaki­ma alone receives about $1.6 mil­lion a year from the ben­e­fit dis­trict the ini­tia­tive would take away. Those funds are used to secure loans and bonds on large projects.

The TBD [trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­trict] mon­ey is need­ed to fin­ish the remain­ing two phas­es of the $15.5 mil­lion North First Street project and oth­er projects, said city spokesman Randy Beehler.

The city has sev­er­al addi­tion­al street and side­walk projects, some part of the Safe Routes to School pro­gram, total­ing more than $4 mil­lion that are depen­dent on TBD fund­ing, he said.

“With­out the TBD funds, those projects don’t hap­pen for the fore­see­able future,” he said. “We wouldn’t have that fund­ing source. Those projects on the TBD list would be either sig­nif­i­cant­ly delayed or pos­si­bly canceled.”

Read the whole thing.

The Tri-Cities, a short dri­ve away from Yaki­ma on I‑82, are at risk of los­ing road main­te­nance mon­ey too. The Tri-City Her­ald was one of the first papers east of the Cas­cades to exam­ine the destruc­tive impact of I‑976, back in the summer:

May­ors in Rich­land and Pross­er say the initiative’s pas­sage would force tough choic­es — let roads dete­ri­o­rate, cut oth­er expens­es or raise prop­er­ty tax­es. “At the end of the day, you have to pay for your stuff,” Rich­land May­or Bob Thomp­son told the Her­ald. “The ques­tion is, whose ox is gored?”

Read the whole thing.

What all these sto­ries remind us is that there is no free lunch, con­trary to what Tim Eyman has tried to argue. Mon­ey does not grow on trees: Rev­enue cuts mean ser­vice cuts. Rev­enue cuts also jeop­ar­dize fed­er­al grants and impair bor­row­ing capa­bil­i­ties. If I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, the con­se­quences will be disastrous.

Every region of the state would lose with Tim Eyman’s I‑976, as you can see from our I‑976 Impact Map, a ground­break­ing data visualization:

Ini­tia­tive 976 Impact Map

Vote NO on I‑976 by Tues­day, Novem­ber 8th!

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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