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.

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Ten reasons why you should vote NO on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 by November 5th

This year, vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton must decide what to do with Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976, a pro­posed law in the form of a bal­lot mea­sure that would elim­i­nate bil­lions of dol­lars in exist­ing bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved trans­porta­tion invest­ments.

You can see from our Ini­tia­tive 976 Impact Map that com­mu­ni­ties all over the state would be neg­a­tive­ly affect­ed by cuts I‑976 would force to projects and ser­vices:

Ini­tia­tive 976 Impact Map

Here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, we’ve been work­ing for eigh­teen months to orga­nize oppo­si­tion to I‑976, because it is a grave threat to Wash­ing­ton’s future. If you are a Wash­ing­ton vot­er who has­n’t yet mind up their mind on I‑976 — or if you know some­one who is unde­cid­ed — we hope you’ll join us in vot­ing NO by this Tues­day. Here are ten rea­sons why we believe that vot­ing NO on this mea­sure is the only respon­si­ble and defen­si­ble choice.

Reason #1: I‑976 would reduce public safety

We all want and deserve to be able to trav­el on roads, high­ways, and rail­ways that are as safe as soci­ety knows how to make them. It’s why we wish each oth­er “Safe trav­els!” when we say au revoir after hav­ing spent time togeth­er.

Our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives have iden­ti­fied trans­porta­tion safe­ty as a top pri­or­i­ty and have fund­ed a host of road and high­way safe­ty improve­ments in recent trans­porta­tion invest­ment plans, from the instal­la­tion of cable bar­ri­ers in medi­ans to the replace­ment of dete­ri­o­rat­ing, obso­lete bridges and over­pass­es.

Tim Eyman’s I‑976 threat­ens these invest­ments, which remain in progress. I‑976 would repeal bil­lions of dol­lars in fund­ing at the state and local lev­els appro­pri­at­ed to improve the safe­ty of our trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

That’s why the Wash­ing­ton State Troop­ers Asso­ci­a­tion oppos­es I‑976.

Here’s what the Troop­ers Asso­ci­a­tion has to say about I‑976:

“We oppose this dan­ger­ous mea­sure because it would stop thou­sands of need­ed road safe­ty repair projects across the state, putting dri­ver and pedes­tri­an safe­ty at greater risk.”

Our Troop­ers know bet­ter than any­one else how much work remains to be done to improve safe­ty on our roads and high­ways because they’re the ones who get called to the scene of count­less crash­es and col­li­sions. Every day, they respond to inci­dents on our high­ways, many of which involve fatal­i­ties.

Many Troop­ers main­tain Twit­ter accounts and use those accounts to post col­li­sion scene pho­tos to remind Wash­ing­to­ni­ans of the impor­tance of dri­ving defen­sive­ly, pay­ing atten­tion while behind the wheel, and obey­ing traf­fic laws.

These pho­tos speak to the need for fur­ther invest­ment to increase pub­lic safe­ty on our roads. Here’s one repub­lished by Troop­er John­na Batiste fol­low­ing the crash of a semi that jack­knifed over the I‑5 cen­ter bar­ri­er in Thurston Coun­ty last month:

Collision on I-5 in Thurston County

Scene from a col­li­sion on Inter­state 5 involv­ing mul­ti­ple semis (Pho­to: Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion)

Here’s a pho­to pub­lished by Troop­er Chelsea Hodg­son of a two car col­li­sion that caused injuries in Grape­view on State Route 3, also last month:

A car collision on State Route 3

Scene from a crash on State Route 3 (Pho­to: Wash­ing­ton State Patrol)

Here’s a pho­to pub­lished by Troop­er Axtman of a crash on State Route 9 in Bick­ford, Sno­homish Coun­ty… again, last month:

Collision on State Route 9

Scene from a col­li­sion on State Route 9 near Bick­ford (Pho­to: Wash­ing­ton State Patrol)

All high­way col­li­sions are ulti­mate­ly the result of human errors like inat­ten­tive dri­ving, but safer roads can help min­i­mize the dam­age that human error caus­es.

For instance, if the Skag­it Riv­er Bridge (fea­tured in coali­tion adver­tis­ing) had been retro­fit­ted before May 2013, Mullen Truck­ing could­n’t have brought a sec­tion of it down by trav­el­ing in a lane that lacked prop­er over­head clear­ance.

We owe it to our­selves to do every­thing we can to make our roads, high­ways, and rail­ways safe. The data tells us we have a lot of work to do.

The Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Civ­il Engi­neers gave Wash­ing­ton State’s infra­struc­ture a grade of “C” two years ago, when it last issued a report card. That was mar­gin­al­ly bet­ter than the grade the coun­try as a whole got (D-), but still lousy.

We can do bet­ter. And we must. Lives depend on our efforts.

“Oper­a­tion and main­te­nance costs are extreme­ly impor­tant for the con­di­tion of our road­ways,” ASCE said in its com­men­tary about the state of Wash­ing­ton’s roads. “New cap­i­tal projects need to be resilient to nat­ur­al dis­as­ters. Even with inno­va­tions in road­way tech­nolo­gies, the lack of fund­ing — espe­cial­ly from fed­er­al sources — hin­ders the state’s abil­i­ty to catch up to the ever-grow­ing needs.”

From 2007 until 2017, accord­ing to the Nation­al High­way Traf­fic Safe­ty Admin­is­tra­tion and Fed­er­al High­way Admin­is­tra­tion, there were two hun­dred and forty-five fatal crash­es and two hun­dred and fifty eight fatal­i­ties on the Wash­ing­ton por­tion of Inter­state 5, which runs from Van­cou­ver to Blaine. And that’s the death toll from just one high­way over the span of one decade.

(See a com­pi­la­tion of the most dan­ger­ous high­ways across the coun­ty here.)

When you renew your vehi­cle’s reg­is­tra­tion, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of the fees you pay go to make our roads and bridges safer. Vote NO on I‑976 to sus­tain Wash­ing­ton State’s vital efforts to improve the safe­ty of our trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

Reason #2: I‑976 would make traffic worse… much worse

These are polar­ized times, but no mat­ter what your polit­i­cal views are, you prob­a­bly don’t enjoy sit­ting in stop and go traf­fic, idling in place or inch­ing along at a snail’s pace towards your des­ti­na­tion. It can be infu­ri­at­ing.

Recent pop­u­la­tion increas­es, cou­pled with new devel­op­ment, have placed addi­tion­al strain on Wash­ing­ton’s aging roads and high­ways.

As bad as grid­lock is now, it stands to get much worse if I‑976 is imple­ment­ed. That’s because I‑976 would repeal fund­ing for tran­sit agen­cies all over the state, includ­ing King Coun­ty Metro and Sound Tran­sit in the greater Seat­tle area, but also small tran­sit agen­cies in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties like Wal­la Wal­la’s Val­ley Tran­sit, Clal­lam Tran­sit, or Island Coun­ty’s Island Tran­sit.

We’re talk­ing about hun­dreds of thou­sands of hours of bus ser­vice.

The loss of all that ser­vice will make infu­ri­at­ing grid­lock more severe and more com­mon. That’s because those Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who own cars but cur­rent­ly choose to ride the bus will switch back to dri­ving once their bus ser­vice is cut.

They’ll have no oth­er choice to get where they want to go.

Imag­ine the worst traf­fic you’ve sat in dur­ing the past year.

Then imag­ine deal­ing with that kind of traf­fic every sin­gle week.

If you val­ue spend­ing time with your fam­i­ly over jock­ey­ing for space on packed roads and high­ways with your fel­low cit­i­zens, then vote NO on I‑976.

Reason #3: I‑976 would strand our carless neighbors

While most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans own vehi­cles, not all do. Many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans can­not dri­ve due to a dis­abil­i­ty, or due to age (either they’re not old enough to obtain a license, or they’ve reached the age where they can’t safe­ly oper­ate a motor vehi­cle any­more). Still oth­ers do not wish to own a car, or can­not afford to own one.

I‑976 would strand these Wash­ing­to­ni­ans by slash­ing their tran­sit ser­vice.

As men­tioned above, I‑976 would force deep tran­sit cuts in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties.

For exam­ple:

Clal­lam Tran­sit is at risk of los­ing more than $1.1 mil­lion in oper­at­ing rev­enue and $2.4 mil­lion in state fund­ing for cap­i­tal projects in 2020 if I‑976 pass­es Novem­ber 5th, accord­ing to infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by [Clal­lam Tran­sit Finance Man­ag­er Dun­yele] Mason.

“In sum­ma­ry, it’s going to hit us hard­est in cap­i­tal, which will affect our oper­at­ing indi­rect­ly because we will now have to set aside some cap­i­tal,” Mason told the board.

“If this pass­es, the state is going to make some deci­sions in the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion next spring,” she added.

“And based on those deci­sions, we will have a lot more infor­ma­tion about where we would be.”

Clal­lam Tran­sit Board Mem­ber and Port Ange­les Deputy May­or Kate Dex­ter said all pub­lic trans­porta­tion agen­cies should be con­cerned about the impacts of I‑976.

“If you look at a worst-case sce­nario poten­tial, it would be real­ly hard to get off the Penin­su­la with­out a car,” Dex­ter said. “Any­one who needs to get to hos­pi­tals in Seat­tle and relies on pub­lic trans­porta­tion of any kind, includ­ing the fer­ries, even with a car, it could be prob­lem­at­ic.”

Empha­sis is mine.

Don't cut my bus!

Bus ser­vice at risk if Ini­tia­tive 976 is imple­ment­ed (Graph­ic by Keep Wash­ing­ton Rolling)

You might think every­one in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties owns and dri­ves a car, but that’s actu­al­ly not true. If I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, it would hit rur­al com­mu­ni­ties espe­cial­ly hard, because small tran­sit agen­cies rely on state mobil­i­ty grants for a big chunk of their fund­ing. Don’t cut your neigh­bors off from tran­sit… vote NO on I‑976.

Reason #4: I‑976 would eliminate good paying jobs

The many bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved projects that I‑976 would repeal fund­ing for all over the state sup­port thou­sands of good pay­ing, fam­i­ly wage union jobs in the build­ing and con­struc­tion trades and relat­ed fields.

Mul­ti­modal trans­porta­tion projects require the ser­vices of skilled labor­ers, car­pen­ters, sheet met­al work­ers, iron­work­ers, pip­efit­ters, elec­tri­cians, plumbers, and so on. These are good jobs that pay a liv­ing wage and offer essen­tial ben­e­fits, includ­ing health­care cov­er­age. Los­ing those jobs would be bad for our econ­o­my.

“I‑976 means few­er jobs build­ing and main­tain­ing the infra­struc­ture that Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents and busi­ness­es need for a thriv­ing state econ­o­my,” the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil says. “Work­ing peo­ple in this state have seen the dam­age done by Tim Eyman’s pre­vi­ous attempts to gut motor vehi­cle excise tax­es, and they want no part of it. That’s why the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil, AFL-CIO and its six hun­dred plus affil­i­at­ed unions have vot­ed to oppose I‑976.”

Unions that have declared their oppo­si­tion to Tim Eyman’s I‑976 include the Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union, the Pacif­ic North­west Region­al Coun­cil of Car­pen­ters, the Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers, the Labor­ers, SEIU, the Unit­ed Auto­mo­bile Work­ers, the Wash­ing­ton State Fed­er­a­tion of State Employ­ees (AFSCME), and the Inter­na­tion­al Union of Oper­at­ing Engi­neers.

The jobs that the mem­bers of these unions do can’t be out­sourced. These are jobs that sup­port oth­er jobs in our com­mu­ni­ties. If they go away, we all pay a price.

Vote NO on I‑976 to save good pay­ing jobs for Wash­ing­to­ni­ans.

Reason #5: I‑976 would increase pollution

Our plan­et’s cli­mate has been severe­ly dam­aged by cen­turies of fos­sil fuel use by humankind. As a con­se­quence, we’re see­ing a rise in sea lev­el due to the melt­ing of our polar ice caps. Our glac­i­ers are melt­ing, too, and com­mu­ni­ties around the world are expe­ri­enc­ing more severe weath­er of all kinds.

This is a cri­sis… a cri­sis that demands action. We must reduce the pol­lu­tion going into our air, water, and soil in order to pro­tect the Earth, our com­mon home.

Sad­ly, I‑976 would wors­en pol­lu­tion in the Pacif­ic North­west at a time when we are try­ing to set a good exam­ple for the world by low­er­ing our emis­sions. I‑976, as men­tioned, would result in reduc­tions in bus ser­vice all over the state.

Van­pool fund­ing would also be slashed.

But that’s not all.

The mea­sure also seeks to repeal fund­ing for expan­sion of Sound Tran­sit’s light rail and com­muter rail sys­tems that vot­ers pre­vi­ous­ly approved. Light rail is vital to low­er­ing trans­porta­tion emis­sions because it can car­ry large num­bers of peo­ple through con­gest­ed cor­ri­dors with­out burn­ing any fos­sil fuels.

Sound Tran­sit’s light rail vehi­cles don’t have tailpipes — they run on elec­tric­i­ty, which can be sus­tain­ably gen­er­at­ed using solar, wind, or hydro­elec­tric pow­er.

If more peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton’s urban core have access to light rail, they can choose a mode of trans­porta­tion that does­n’t pol­lute. I‑976 threat­ens to take that choice away from com­mu­ni­ties like Everett and Taco­ma, which are at the ends of pro­posed new light rail lines due to be con­struct­ed between now and 2040.

Wash­ing­ton Physi­cians for Social Respon­si­bil­i­ty says I‑976 is also bad for pub­lic health in addi­tion to our cli­mate. They explain:

I‑976 is inex­tri­ca­bly con­nect­ed to pub­lic health and cli­mate. Gut­ting pub­lic trans­porta­tion will increase air pol­lu­tion and green­house gas emis­sions, threat­en­ing our health and our cli­mate progress. I‑976 means more con­ges­tion, and numer­ous stud­ies show that this will increase the risk of mor­bid­i­ty and mor­tal­i­ty due to increased inhaled pol­lu­tants by those sit­ting in traf­fic. And more acci­dents and dan­ger­ous road con­di­tions will result from I‑976’s elim­i­na­tion of crit­i­cal fund­ing for high­way improve­ments and main­te­nance.

The Earth is the one and only home we’ve got. There’s no oth­er Earth we can move to if we wreck this one. We’ve got to care for our plan­et and our­selves.

Vote NO on I‑976 to keep Wash­ing­ton on a path to greater sus­tain­abil­i­ty.

Reason #6: I‑976 would make our tax code more unfair

Accord­ing to the Insti­tute for Tax­a­tion and Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy (ITEP), Wash­ing­ton State has the most upside down, regres­sive tax code in the coun­try. Those with the most pay the least, while those with the least pay the most.

“Accord­ing to ITEP’s Tax Inequal­i­ty Index, which mea­sures the impact of each state’s tax sys­tem on income inequal­i­ty, Wash­ing­ton has the most unfair state and local tax sys­tem in the coun­try. Incomes are more unequal in Wash­ing­ton after state and local tax­es are col­lect­ed than before,” ITEP explains.

Ini­tia­tive 976 attempts to exac­er­bate this inequity by slash­ing vehi­cle fees to a flat thir­ty dol­lars every­where, mean­ing that a rich Wash­ing­ton­ian who owns a Fer­rari or a Lam­borgi­ni (or per­haps both!) would pay exact­ly the same to reg­is­ter their vehi­cle as a low or mid­dle income Wash­ing­ton­ian who owns a Corol­la or a Civic.

Under I‑976, the RTA MVET (motor vehi­cle excise tax) col­lect­ed by the Depart­ment of Licens­ing for Sound Tran­sit would be repealed, elim­i­nat­ing Wash­ing­ton’s only trans­porta­tion-spe­cif­ic rev­enue source that is tied to abil­i­ty to pay.

Why should a car that is worth $97,000, $57,000, $37,000, or $27,000 cost the same to reg­is­ter as a vehi­cle that’s worth just $7,000?

Tesla Roadster vs. Toyota Camry

Tim Eyman thinks it should cost the same to reg­is­ter a Tes­la Road­ster (top) any­where in Wash­ing­ton as it does to reg­is­ter a Toy­ota Cam­ry (bot­tom). That’s ridicu­lous.

Wealthy Wash­ing­to­ni­ans don’t need anoth­er tax cut, but Tim Eyman wants to give them one any­way. The poor­est Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, mean­while, would get only a mea­ger tax cut and be stuck with worse traf­fic and worse pol­lu­tion.

I‑976’s unfair­ness does­n’t stop there.

If I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, there’s a strong pos­si­bil­i­ty that we could see an increase in ferry/bus/train fares and tolls to cov­er some of the oper­at­ing costs that were pre­vi­ous­ly sup­port­ed by vehi­cle reg­is­tra­tion fees. Those fares and tolls will fall more heav­i­ly upon peo­ple with fixed or lim­it­ed incomes than peo­ple who are buy­ing Aston Mar­tins or Jaguars and get­ting a nice big Tim Eyman craft­ed tax cut.

Vote NO on I‑976 to stop Wash­ing­ton’s tax code from becom­ing more unfair.

Reason #7: I‑976 is “catastrophic” for our housing market

Matthew Gard­ner, the chief econ­o­mist for Win­der­mere, has gone on record say­ing that I‑976 would be “cat­a­stroph­ic” for Wash­ing­ton’s hous­ing mar­ket.

In an inter­view with KIRO’s Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, Gard­ner described what he thinks will hap­pen to the mar­ket if the mea­sure is imple­ment­ed.

“I think (I‑976) is ter­ri­ble,” Win­der­mere Real Estate Chief Econ­o­mist Matthew Gard­ner told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien. “The effects are going to be poten­tial­ly cat­a­stroph­ic.”

Gardner’s argu­ment cen­ters around the effect $30 car tabs would have on tran­sit. Oppo­nents have esti­mat­ed the $30 car tabs mea­sure would wipe out over $4 bil­lion total in state, region­al, and local trans­porta­tion fund­ing over the next decade. Offi­cials also fore­cast being forced to delay or can­cel var­i­ous trans­porta­tion projects.

If that hap­pens, Gard­ner warns it could sig­nif­i­cant­ly affect the way peo­ple approach the home-buy­ing process, both in West­ern Wash­ing­ton and across the state.

“Where we talk about price of homes, the fur­ther you are away, the cheap­er it becomes,” said Gard­ner.

“You still have to get to your jobs, and the trou­ble is it’s going to cut back sig­nif­i­cant­ly on bus­es, but not just bus­es on our exist­ing road sys­tem — half of our fer­ry sys­tem will become obso­lete by 2040.”

“If (I‑976) pass­es, it’s only going to fur­ther decrease afford­abil­i­ty — peo­ple live clos­est to where they need to be,” he added.

Access to afford­able hous­ing is already a prob­lem in the greater Seat­tle-Taco­ma-Everett area. Let’s not make that prob­lem worse.

Vote NO on I‑976 to avoid exac­er­bat­ing lack of access to afford­able hous­ing.

Reason #8: I‑976 will increase vehicle maintenance costs

If you do own a car, don’t expect to save any mon­ey in the long term under I‑976. Not only will you pay more for gaso­line or diesel fuel due to poor­er fuel econ­o­my caused by sit­ting in increased traf­fic (if your car is pow­ered by com­bus­tion), your car will be trav­el­ing over roads that are not being main­tained prop­er­ly.

And that will increase the total cost to own your vehicle(s). Sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

The repeat­ed use of a vehi­cle on bad roads caus­es a vehi­cle’s key parts to wear out much faster, includ­ing its tires and sus­pen­sion sys­tem.

“While all tires even­tu­al­ly wear down and need replac­ing, the rate at which they lose their tread depends on how much fric­tion there is with the road,” explains Strut­mas­ters, a fam­i­ly-owned sus­pen­sion man­u­fac­tur­er.

“Nor­mal dri­ving on well-main­tained roads with a good sus­pen­sion means there will be min­i­mal up-and-down move­ment of the tires on the road.”

Note the phrase well-main­tained roads in that expla­na­tion.

Pot­holes, mean­while, are a grave threat to those same parts.

Mechan­ic Jeff White of Gar­ry’s Ser­vice Cen­ter, a New Hamp­shire based auto­mo­tive shop, told New Hamp­shire Pub­lic Radio in 2013 that many of his cus­tomers end up with repairs total­ing more than $1,000 in a giv­en year from bad roads.

Emi­ly Cor­win reports:

White says “when you go over a real­ly big pot­hole, you can dam­age sus­pen­sion parts and steer­ing parts.” Frost heaves and pot­holes also cause a car’s wheels to go out of align­ment.

Then, White says, “the car will either drift right or left, and what that caus­es, besides a lot of annoy­ance, is it quick­ly wears tires.”

Folks dri­ving sports cars will like­ly have the most road-relat­ed dam­age, White says, includ­ing bent and bro­ken rims.

Cities like Spokane are using vehi­cle fees to pay for road resur­fac­ing and pot­hole fix­ing projects. If I‑976 is imple­ment­ed, those funds will be wiped out, and bad roads will not get fixed. It costs mon­ey to keep roads well-main­tained.

If your vehi­cle reg­is­tra­tion costs go down a few bucks, but you then have to pony up thou­sands for car repairs caused by dri­ving on rut­ted roads, then you haven’t saved any mon­ey at all. You’ve sim­ply put your­self fur­ther in the hole.

Vote NO on I‑976 to pro­tect your­self against unnec­es­sary car repair bills.

Reason #9: I‑976 would overturn local decisions

Home rule and local con­trol over deci­sion­mak­ing is impor­tant to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. It’s why we have so many local gov­ern­ments: port dis­tricts, school dis­tricts, water dis­tricts, sew­er dis­tricts, pub­lic util­i­ty dis­tricts, and even ceme­tery and mos­qui­to con­trol dis­tricts in addi­tion to our cities (munic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions) and coun­ties.

I‑976 would repeal the author­i­ty the state pre­vi­ous­ly gave to cities and to vot­ers in urban Puget Sound to tax them­selves to raise funds for bad­ly need­ed trans­porta­tion improve­ments. More than six­ty cities rely on vehi­cle fees to fund essen­tial road main­te­nance and street repairs. The list includes:

  • Bain­bridge Island
  • Bat­tle Ground
  • Black Dia­mond
  • Bre­mer­ton
  • Bridge­port
  • Buck­ley
  • Burien
  • Car­bona­do
  • Cov­ing­ton
  • Des Moines
  • DuPont
  • Edge­wood
  • East Wenatchee
  • Eatonville
  • Elec­tric City
  • Elmer City
  • Edmonds
  • Enum­claw
  • Everett
  • Fife
  • George
  • Grand­view
  • Gran­ite Falls
  • Kala­ma
  • Kel­so
  • Ken­more
  • Kit­ti­tas
  • Lake For­est Park
  • Lake­wood
  • Longview
  • Lyn­nwood
  • Mabton
  • Maple Val­ley
  • Mer­cer Island
  • Moses Lake
  • Mount­lake Ter­race
  • Nor­mandy Park
  • Olympia
  • Ort­ing
  • Port Orchard
  • Pross­er
  • Rich­land
  • Roy
  • Roy­al City
  • Seat­tle
  • Sedro-Wool­ley
  • Shore­line
  • Sno­qualmie
  • Soap Lake
  • Spokane
  • Taco­ma
  • Top­pen­ish
  • Uni­ver­si­ty Place
  • Van­cou­ver
  • Wap­a­to
  • Wenatchee
  • Wilke­son
  • Yaki­ma
  • Zil­lah

I‑976 also attempts to over­turn the 2016 Sound Tran­sit 3 vote, in which more than a mil­lion vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ed. A deci­sive major­i­ty of the elec­torate decid­ed to tax them­selves to fund mass tran­sit expan­sion in urban King, Sno­homish, and Pierce coun­ties. I‑976 pro­po­nent Tim Eyman does­n’t care: he is obsessed with rip­ping the heart out of Sound Tran­sit and gut­ting the agency like a pig.

If imple­ment­ed, I‑976 would rip away fund­ing for light rail, com­muter rail, express bus, and bus rapid tran­sit expan­sion projects that Sound Tran­sit is work­ing to deliv­er to the vot­ers. Because I‑976 is a statewide ini­tia­tive, it could pass even if a major­i­ty of those inside Sound Tran­sit’s juris­dic­tion vote against it.

“Curi­ous­ly, while tout­ing a con­ser­v­a­tive line on tax­a­tion, Eyman’s mea­sure under­mines three tenets of con­ser­v­a­tive gov­er­nance: local con­trol, des­ig­nat­ing funds for spe­cif­ic pur­pos­es, and user fees in which those who use a ser­vice pay for it,” the Yaki­ma Her­ald-Repub­lic not­ed in its edi­to­r­i­al oppos­ing Ini­tia­tive 976.

“His ini­tia­tive also brush­es aside the real­i­ty that due to infla­tion, $30 doesn’t buy what it did in 1999, espe­cial­ly in road con­struc­tion and main­te­nance.”

“And while Eyman espous­es the sanc­ti­ty of vot­er approval of tax­es, he seeks to employ the rest of the state into over­turn­ing the vot­ers’ will in the three-coun­ty Sound Tran­sit dis­trict — a lega­cy of his obses­sive enmi­ty toward trains and bus­es.”

“If vot­ers in the Puget Sound region want to raise their own tax­es for Sound Tran­sit — they have done so three times since 1996 — they can have at it,” the news­pa­per’s edi­to­r­i­al board declared. “This is not our fight, nor is it the fight of the thir­ty-six coun­ties not pay­ing into that par­tic­u­lar agency.”

Vote NO on I‑976 to uphold Wash­ing­ton’s cher­ished tra­di­tion of home rule.

Reason #10: Vehicle fees shouldn’t be based on what Kelley Blue Book (a private company) thinks a car is worth

In addi­tion to attempt­ing to repeal the vot­er-approved motor vehi­cle excise tax (MVET) that the Depart­ment of Licens­ing col­lects on behalf of Sound Tran­sit, Ini­tia­tive 976 stip­u­lates that any motor vehi­cle excise tax levied in the future must use Kel­ley Blue Book to deter­mine the val­ue of the vehi­cle.

This is prob­lem­at­ic because Kel­ley Blue Book is a pri­vate com­pa­ny that may or may not remain a going con­cern in the future, and its data does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect what buy­ers and sell­ers con­sid­er a vehi­cle’s mar­ket val­ue to be.

From Sec­tion 8 of I‑976:

For the pur­pose of deter­min­ing a vehi­cle tax, a tax­ing dis­trict impos­ing a vehi­cle tax must set a vehicle’s tax­able val­ue at the vehicle’s base mod­el Kel­ley Blue book val­ue. This ensures an hon­est and accu­rate cal­cu­la­tion of the tax and, com­bined with the appeal process in RCW 82.44.065, ensures that vehi­cle own­ers are taxed on their vehicle’s mar­ket val­ue.

Using Kel­ley Blue Book does not ensure an hon­est or accu­rate cal­cu­la­tion of any­thing. Fair mar­ket val­ue is what a prospec­tive buy­er is will­ing to pay and what a prospec­tive sell­er is will­ing to accept in return for the title to a vehi­cle.

If a vehi­cle you own is severe­ly dam­aged in a car col­li­sion, an insur­er (per­haps yours) will make a deter­mi­na­tion as to whether the vehi­cle is totaled or not. You, as the vehi­cle’s own­er, can dis­pute that deter­mi­na­tion and hag­gle with the insur­er.

If the insur­er deter­mines the vehi­cle is totaled — mean­ing it costs more to repair than what it’s worth — the insur­er will not cov­er the entire­ty of the repair bill, assum­ing the car is even repairable. Insur­ers do not rely on Kel­ley Blue Book to deter­mine a car’s worth, and for good rea­son: what Kel­ley Blue Book thinks a car is worth may not resem­ble what a car is actu­al­ly worth.

Kel­ley Blue Book even admits this in an FAQ on their web­site:

Please note that insur­ance com­pa­nies do not have any oblig­a­tion to use Kel­ley Blue Book pric­ing to deter­mine replace­ment val­ues. Insur­ance com­pa­nies use Kel­ley Blue Book as a ref­er­ence but will set their own poli­cies as to which val­ues they use.

The total loss rules in state reg­u­la­tions per­mit an insur­er to deter­mine the val­ue of a car using one of the fol­low­ing meth­ods, which don’t include Kel­ley Blue Book:

  • Offer to replace your car with an avail­able and com­pa­ra­ble car (leg.wa.gov) in your local area.
  • Offer you a cash set­tle­ment based on the actu­al cash val­ue of com­pa­ra­ble cars in your local area.
  • If you and your insur­er can­not agree on the actu­al cash val­ue of your totaled car, your insur­ance pol­i­cy may have an appraisal pro­vi­sion in which you and the insur­er agree to use inde­pen­dent apprais­ers or oth­er meth­ods to resolve the val­ue dis­pute.

Again, sup­pose your vehi­cle got dam­aged in a col­li­sion and you looked up what Kel­ley Blue Book cal­cu­lat­ed that a car of that same make, mod­el, and mod­el year is worth. You dis­cov­er it’s not as much as you thought.

Would you be hap­py if the insur­er insist­ed on using KBB’s data as the basis for decid­ing how much to offer you for your vehi­cle?

As stat­ed above, insur­ers do not rely on Kel­ley Blue Book to deter­mine what a car is worth, and nei­ther should we as tax­pay­ers and vehi­cle own­ers.

The exist­ing sched­ule that is in use, which is based on the Man­u­fac­tur­er’s Sug­gest­ed Retail Price plus depre­ci­a­tion, should def­i­nite­ly be replaced with a bet­ter sys­tem. But Kel­ley Blue Book is not a suit­able replace­ment.

Vote NO on I‑976 to stop Tim Eyman’s scheme to tie any future motor vehi­cle excise tax to the data cre­at­ed by Kel­ley Blue Book own­er Cox Auto­mo­tive Group.


Con­grat­u­la­tions on mak­ing it all the way to the end of this post! Thanks for read­ing and please remem­ber to vote NO on I‑976 by Novem­ber 5th at 8 PM!

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One Comment

  1. I vot­ed no!

    # by Amy Johnson :: November 29th, 2019 at 8:34 PM