Initiatives are generally a lousy way to make law. They are written in a vacuum by those with a narrow agenda.
Initiative 976, the latest proposal from Tim Eyman, is no exception. I-976, like most of Eyman’s previous initiatives, is aimed at limiting taxes and fees that will handcuff state and local governments ability to provide services to the public.
In theory, Eyman’s goal of keeping government spending in check and lowering taxes is a solid one. However, in some cases — and this is one of those cases — the method goes too far.
I-967, as stated in the Washington Voters’ Guide, “would repeal, reduce, or remove authority to impose certain vehicle taxes and fees; limit annual motor-vehicle-license fees to $30, except voter-approved charges; and base vehicle taxes on Kelley Blue Book value.”
The idea of a $30 license fee and limiting other taxes and fees will certainly be appealing. However, what’s not clear from that description is that the reduction in fees will result in the reduction of highway and road construction. That will impact the livelihoods of all Washingtonians.
Right now, the annual base license fee across the state range from $30 to $93 for most passenger vehicles. In addition, heavier vehicles can be charged a weight fee that ranges from $25 to $65. The money collected from the license and vehicle weight fees fund transportation, including road and highway repairs.
The state’s transportation infrastructure is a mess and as the state population continues to grow, the situation is become more dire.
In addition, I-976 will hurt funding for public transportation and specifically hurt — perhaps gut — Sound Transit, which provides mass transit to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. In 2016, voters in those counties approved rail projects that will take more than 20 years to complete. I-976 would eliminate funding and drive up construction and bonding costs.
That would be devastating to the Puget Sound area, which is why much of the opposition focuses on the hit to mass transportation.
And that might cause those living east of the Cascades to believe they don’t need to give a hoot about the traffic snarls in Western Washington.
Voters here should care. The reality is that the transportation of goods across the state is critical to everyone. Having a solid transportation system benefits the entire state and all its residents.
If the folks in King, Pierce and Snohomish county voted to tax themselves for this project, it’s wrong to undercut their decision.
Beyond that, a significant amount of the money collected from the annual license tab fees is used for transportation projects in Eastern Washington, including upgrading the infrastructure of Walla Walla County.
A dramatic cut in transportation funding statewide and locally is simply not acceptable. We urge voters to reject I-976.