Misguided Support For I-912
Oh, the irony.
Right wing I-912 proponents are constantly accusing the Washington legislature for coming up with a plan that doesn't add enough additional road capacity, yet the car hating liberals are against I-912 because it does.
Then the right wing I-912 supporters claim that they don't trust the legislature or the WSDOT, but defend their initiative by stating that it will force the legislature and WSDOT to try again and come up with a "better" plan (read, one that doesn't require a tax increase).
Meanwhile, car hating liberals who would normally never find themselves voting on an anti-tax initiative concocted by rabid right wingnuts, have decided to get in bed with them, thinking they actually will benefit from the result of I-912 passing.
How sadly wrong they are to think so.
The problem is that they are all working from misguided beliefs.
The gas tax can only be used for highways and ferries. On many of the highway projects bike lanes would be added. On the 520 bridge project, additional capacity would probably include HOV lanes and bike lanes, and perhaps plans to accommodate a rail transit system. These are things the car hating liberals should be supporting.
The $5.5 billion the gas tax would raise is not guaranteed to exist in another form should I-912 strike the gas tax down. If people cannot vote for the minor user fee that a gas tax is, they will never support an alternative tax to raise the same amount of money.
Seattleites and Eastsiders that believe a vote for I-912 will be a good thing for them are delusional. Without the gas tax, the Alaskan Way Viaduct will lose $2 billion in funding that could have paid for most of the cost of a replacement roadway. Without the gas tax, the 520 floating bridge will lose $500 million that would have been supplemented by tolls to cover the cost for a replacement with greater capacity. Without the tax almost $1 billion more for I-405 projects will go poof. Without the tax, these project won't happen and we all run the risk of structures failing before anything gets done to replace and improve them. Without the tax we all have to deal with worse traffic.
But the needs won't have been eliminated. The Viaduct will still need to be replaced. The 520 bridge will still need to be replaced. Yet, the probable balkanization of transportation infrastructure spending will likely mean that the cost for Seattleites and Eastsiders will double as they find they will be burdened by the entire bill.
Simple put: a vote for I-912 for people in King County will be a vote for higher taxes down the road - pun intended.
I-912 passing will not save this area any money so that it could be spent on transit projects that don't involve cars. That's just wrongheaded thinking. The best choice for people who support projects like Sound Transit or the Monorail would be to vote against I-912 so that the fund raising needed for our crumbling transportation infrastructure can occur without raiding the options available to pay for transit projects. Seattleites faced with an either/or proposition would never support a Monorail project over improved roads and bridges. That's just not a feasibility. However, if given the chance for both, they will, and have supported such transit projects.
If you're inclined to argue that King County is a big winner in I-912, that's to some extent true, but not for the reason you're probably thinking. As the Seattle Times again reminded us this weekend, the area only receives back $1.09 for every $1 put in this time around. Many other counties receive much more in return, including Kittitas County, which gets $4.20 back for each $1 put in, and Garfield County, which gets $4.91 for each $1 put in.
Statewide, the construction projects are expected to create thousands of new jobs.
Dan Swecker, Republican legislator from Rochester, explained things back last April during a live chat with The Olympian:
Right now we have a $1 billion-plus deficit in the general fund and those resources are badly needed elsewhere.So if I-912 passes, King County will lose billions and will have to come up with that other half, plus the billions it lost. Not doing anything about the Viaduct and 520 floating bridge is simply not an option whether I-912 passes or fail, and should it pass due to the misguided support of car hating liberals, it will be similar to when their fateful votes for Ralph Nader in 2000 helped put George W. Bush in the White House. And we all know how big a disaster that has been.
Our goal is to not raise general taxes for those programs. Instead we want to concentrate any increase on the part of the state infrastructure that will most benefit the economy. The accompanying legislation has over 200 projects throughout the state. During the 16 years that it takes to complete those projects it's estimated that we will generate 35,000 to 40,000 new jobs, construction jobs, family wage jobs, $120,000,000 in sales tax revenue alone that will enhance the general fund budget. So my feeling is, if we're going to spend public money on anything, this is the exact right time to do it.
That doesn't even speak to the issue of needs. The first thing we addressed in the Legislature was the failing structures in the Seattle metro area, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and 520 Bridge. If either of those were to fail it would have a devastating effect on the economy. We decided to fund a little less than half of those projects and have the region come up with the rest. Even with that, the tax will only come up with a portion of those projects, so to pay for the rest of the projects around the state, this incremental tax will help us finish these projects.
About half of proposed gas tax revenue will come from the King County area. Not only will they pay their share of the gas tax but will add additional revenue to finish those projects, probably more than is projected by the gas tax, so we're getting double bang for our buck.
Will they make a similar mistake again, or will they wake up and see the reality of the world we live in and the problems we are facing? We'll find out November 8th.