On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fact: Urbanites Pay For Rural Roads

Those of you who read the paper edition of the Seattle Times article on Sunday, "Gasoline tax fuels backlash", will have seen the following chart on page B3:

Those of you who didn't, got a completely different chart on the Web site. No idea why the Seattle Times decided not to retain the original chart as it is of considerable interest as we discuss the merits of the WA initiative that wishes to kill $5.5 billion worth of transportation upgrades and safety improvements by striking out the gas tax provision of the landmark bill passed with bipartisan support this spring.

What the above chart points out is how in the 20 year period ending in 2003, rural Washingtonians, predominently "red" voters, have received $3 of transportation project funding for every $2 they've been asked to contribute. That's a pretty good deal.

Yet, how can this be? After all, if all you do is listen to right wing talk radio or get your information from right wing bloggers, you've been eating a daily dose of high octane diatribes about how folks in Whitman County, for example, have been subsidizing good for nothing mega-projects in King County.

The above chart tells us in very simple terms that's simply not true.

What is clearly true is that the urbanites have been paving rural Washington with their tax dollars, not the other way around.

The fact is, as others have pointed out, supporters of the initiative are trying to ride the coattails of voter discontent regarding the outcome of the WA Governor's race, to pitch their anti-tax crusade to the rural voter. We are supposed to believe initiative backers when they tell us they aren't against a gas tax, they just want a better transportation bill. Sorry, we're not going to fall for such bunk. If they wanted a better bill then why haven't they presented what such a bill might look like? Just how do they propose the upgrades and safety improvements be paid for? What fairer ways do they have in mind, and just how many rural road projects will be hurt by them?

The initiative process does nothing more, in this circumstance, than undercut months of negotiating and diplomacy in the legislature, by the people we all chose to represent our voices. These people hold jobs that have required them to study all the options closely and carefully. This spring they came to a bipartisan agreement that this transportation bill was the best solution available to us. This initiative asks mostly uninformed people to look past their natural instinct to vote against any tax, and make an informed vote in all of about the five minutes it will take them to fill out their ballot.

In fact, why don't we just get it over with once and for all and produce an initiative that completely eliminates all taxes? Does anyone doubt that such an initiative would pass? I wouldn't be surprised if it did. Does anyone believe that would be a good thing? Of course it wouldn't, and neither will voting to kill this transportation bill be either, which a vote for this initiative would do. Remember that when you next hit a nasty pothole that has you visiting a mechanic for repairs, get stuck in yet another traffic jam, or read about yet another deadly road accident that could have been avoided if the roads were wider, better lit, had better barriers, or some other way improved. (nwphtt60)

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