Edmonds Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

By Paul Archipley
Beacon Publisher 

Edmonds City Council urges no vote on I-976

But Tim Eyman makes his case to vote for it

 

October 17, 2019

Beacon file photo

Tim Eyman

Although recent polling suggests Initiative 976, the $30 car tab ballot measure, is winning among likely voters, powerful forces are arrayed against it – including, as of Tuesday evening, a unanimous Edmonds City Council.

Proposed by Mayor Dave Earling, a resolution opposing the initiative starkly paints the financial hit the city's transportation infrastructure program would suffer if voters approve I-976 this November. Although some councilmembers expressed sympathy about high taxes on vehicles, none opposed the resolution.

Only one visitor took advantage of the opportunity to speak against the resolution – I-976 creator Tim Eyman himself. Eyman, the former Mukilteo residents who now lives in Bellevue, has been a one-man lobbyist, attending council meetings and other events across the state to argue his case for passing the initiative.

On Tuesday, he repeated some of those arguments, including the fact that voters previously approved a similar $30 car tab initiative, and that they're tired of elected officials raising their taxes without asking voters' permission.

"Voters are put off when the government raises fees without voter input," Eyman said. "That's the value of the initiative system; voters have a say."

He noted that car tab fees have climbed dramatically in recent years – even more than government admitted they would.

"What really gnaws at people when it comes to vehicle licenses is the dishonesty of the tax," Eyman said. "To say that a $10,000 vehicle is valued at $25,000 for the purposes of taxation is infuriating to taxpayers."

He named Sound Transit specifically, noting officials claimed if voters approved its funding request, car tabs would rise about $80; instead, vehicle owners are being hit with annual car tab fees in the hundreds of dollars.

Eyman said the state Legislature has had 2½ years to address the problem, but has not acted. Now, if voters approve I-976, government can still raise taxes; they just have to ask voters' permission to do so.

In addition, the state has a $3.5 billion surplus right now, more than enough to cover transportation needs in the near term.

Eyman said the current Legislature would likely be very open to spreading that surplus around when local officials go to Olympia with hats in hand. "They spend money like drunken sailors," he said.

But Mayor Earling, who has been on the Sound Transit board of directors for 18 years, said Eyman's math is shortsighted and ignores the damage it would do to local transportation systems.

"There is a lot of money to spread around," Earling said of the state surplus. "But that money would only pay for transit and not all the other departments.

"He presupposes that money would all go to transportation. You've got to run the rest of the state, too."

According to the resolution, should I-976 pass, Edmonds would have to cut back or eliminate a range of transportation infrastructure programs.

For example, Earling said, the city would lose about $700,000 per year that it currently collects locally for its road resurfacing program. That's more than half its annual budget.

The city had already fallen behind, the mayor noted, because it virtually eliminated the program for a few years during the recession. Now it's playing catch-up. If it loses that funding, it will likely fall further behind.

Edmonds' and other Snohomish County commuters also would have to wait much longer for the light rail system that is being constructed. About $7 billion for Sound Transit 3 projects would be lost, the resolution stated.

A $1.85 million grant the city won for bicycle and access improvements would likely be reversed, too, it stated.

Earling said now is not the time to put the brakes on much-needed transportation infrastructure projects.

"We understand that some feel taxes are high," he said. "On the other hand, Snohomish County is beginning to see success. If this passes, it would slow improvements dramatically."

 

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