Monday, October 03, 2005

Initiative 912

What it is:
I-912 is an initiative to cancel a 9.5c/gallon increase in gasoline taxes in Washington State.

History:
In May, the Washington State Legislature passed a tax package to fund transportation projects around the state through an increase in gas taxes and vehicle weight fees. Since Initiative 695 passed in 2000 repealing the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, Washington State's transportation budget was gutted until the Nickel Funding Package passed in 2003, raising the gas tax by 5c/gallon. Many of the Nickel projects were only partially funded by that tax, and to complete them, the 2005 Transportation Tax Package was passed to raise the tax by 9.5c/gallon in increments over four years.
In response, individuals across the state put together a simple repeal - as written, the initiative simply erases the gas tax sections passed in the Legislature's tax package. The initiative gathered enough signatures to be placed on the November 2005 ballot.

Effect:
I-912 does not provide a new funding source for the transportation package, so it will effectively cancel or stall work on up to 270 projects throughout the state. Opponents claim that the transportation package leaves many projects incomplete, but only a few projects are not funded to completion by the package - projects that the state expects municipalities to partially fund.
Some rail and freight projects which the package funds will not be directly affected by I-912, but funding for those projects is expected to be reallocated to road and bridge safety projects.

6 Comments:

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Taxpayer for Monorail said...

I guess some missed the whole point of I-912. The State of Washington illegally by-passed voter approval for the 9.5 cent per gallon gas tax using a very highly s t r e t c h e d interpretation of the emergency clause. Most all the projects on the list I received from the State through the Freedom of Information Act were NOT considered emergencies. The only 'emergency' projects listed were the 520 bridge and the viaduct. Therefore any tax increase for the rest of the non-emergency projects on this massive list should have gone to the voters for approval. Instead the State decided to abuse its powers by by-passing the people's powers granted to us by Article II, Section I of the State Constitution. So the people had to stand up and repeal a tax that was illegally imposed upon us. For this reason no alternative source for funding was needed in I-912. I-912 was about undoing a wrong not switching funding sources.

Now if the State wants to come back to the voters this time and ask us to tax ourselves 9.5 cents per gallon for all these non-emergency projects like they are legally required to than fine. But it is not up to I-912 to provide alternative funding.

Perhaps a better, more fiscally responsible solution would be for government at all levels to tighten their belts, eliminate their massive waste and try operating more efficiently and perhaps they may find they already have enough money to fulfill these projects rather than continuing with wasteful spending of all our hard earned money and just taxing us more and more when they finally want to do something useful but run short on funds.

It's time government start running itself like we run our homes and businesses. You don't spend money you don't have on frivolous stuff like toy trolley cars in South Lake Union or on over priced light rail projects to nowhere serving so few when money could be better spent on more cost effective and more efficient projects like a REGIONAL MONORAIL SYSTEM serving the greater Puget Sound area and all those who pay the taxes. The cost would be far less (with proper financing, of course) than light rail and would get us up and moving in less time than light rail, with greater speed, safety and efficiency than light rail. But instead our government would rather tax us dearly to pad their pockets with outrageous salaries while providing us with bulky, slow moving, inefficient and costly modes of mass transit that does not go where we want, when we want.

So let your voice be heard, write your public leaders. They are supposed to be there to serve YOU not the other way around. And if they fail to do that then vote them out of office the first chance you get!

Important Links Regarding FOIA & OGA

To learn more about requesting FOIA information from your government go to the following web sites:

Citizen.org


FirstAmendmentCenter.org

WA State Public Disclosure Commission

Washington COG

U.S. Dept of Justice (FOIA)

It's your dollar, be informed!

 
At 2:37 PM, Blogger Ben Schiendelman said...

taxpayer:

If the 2005 transportation tax package was illegal, why wasn't the Nickel transportation package in 2003 as well? There's been no challenge in court that I know of for either one.

The Freedom of Information Act is federal - it does not apply to state or local agencies. The state of Washington's Public Disclosure Act, however, does.

The 2005 transportation tax package I-912 will partially repeal does not affect either Link light rail or the South Lake Union streetcar.

Why do you believe your regional monorail system would be faster or more efficient than the regional light rail system under construction?

 
At 10:33 PM, Anonymous EvergreenRailfan said...

First most of the money to build the South Lake Union Streetcar will come from the SLU Property Owners through a Local Improvement District. It is time the state repealed constitutional restrictions on the use of Tax-Increment Financing to pay for transit projects.

Also, $9 million for Spokane Valley to bridge 20 grade crossings on the BNSF between Spokane and the Idaho Border as Union Pacific is re-aligning their line. The traffic increase of UP using BNSF to reach Idaho instead of their own track? 4 trains a day on average, moving 9000 tons or more.(TRAINS Magazine Map of the Month July 2004) That is on average. Freight trains do not run on schedules, and also, those 4 trains range from grain trains(which are seasonal), general merchandise, and Intermodal Trains. The UP route goes all the way to Eastport Idaho, where the Interchange with Canadian Pacific. $9 million dollars for grade crossing improvements is a good idea, and perhaps that should be done in Urban Areas. As Freight Trains get longer and more frequent, especially due to Seattle/Tacoma being one of only three US West Coast Ports able to accomodate the newest Mega-Freighters. Between the Port of Seattle and I-5, I only see one grade crossing built this decade over the BNSF North-South main.

Nobody survives getting hit by a freight train unscathed. The Intermodal Trains, which are the mainstay of freight railroads, are often running fast, and 100 cars long or more. That is a lot of weight. If the Grade Crossings are bridged or eliminated, those trains will be able to stay at speed. The railroads try educating people, with a program called Operation Lifesaver, but it still is not enough. I at first when I saw this outragous project in Spokane County, it was a bad idea, using the Gas Tax for it. The other taxes that will not be repealed are to pay for rail, but then when it said that 20 bridges would have to be built, that made sense. If it was relocating the line, I was thinking that the boys from Omaha and Fort Worth should have to pay.

 
At 10:52 PM, Blogger Ben Schiendelman said...

Railfan: Excellent points - but I'm concerned that 912 will result in intermodal funding going for non-rail projects.

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger EvergreenRailfan said...

Some railroads do the unthinkable(in the eyes of their shareholders), and spend there own money on track improvements. Seems their are some that want the state and federal governments to pay for the track improvements. Grade Crossing Safety is important, and should be taken into account.

Part of the Nickel Package was $8 million for the 300 mile Palouse River and Coulee City, if that railroad had not been aquired, we would have been seeing the possible financial collapse of that major grain artery in the Palouse. Possibly turned into a hiking trail and thousands of truckloads of Grain would have ended up on the highways in that region that probably could not have taken it. Now the state has not proposed passenger services on it, but Pullman-Spokane might be a viable option in the near future. If upgraded to standards that allow for 79MPH.

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger Roy Smith said...

The problem with the entire debate over the gas tax increase and I-912 is that it is only a yes/no vote on the entire package. If we could get rid of the truly awful ways to spend public money, and keep the rest, that would be great. However, I think we need to vote for I-912 and trust that the legislature will figure out a way to actually fund the safety issues and abandon idiotic ideas like replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct and expanding freeway capacity throughout western Washington. The Alaska Way Viaduct needs to be completely removed, not replaced or buried in a tunnel.

The money is grouped into projects as follows (numbers from WSDOT, comments are my own):

Roadway Safety: $3.257 billion - includes partial funding for AWV replacement and SR-520 expansion, which are both collosal wastes of money. Assuming everything else is actually for safety projects, $757 million of this is spending I can support.
Preservation: $0.5 million
Ferries: $185 million - none of this is for passenger ferries, which is a mistake
Multi-Modal Improvements: $85 million - grossly underfunded
Environmental: $108 million - sound walls and the like. Might not all be necessary if we took actions to cut automobile dependancy
Freight Mobility & Economics: $541 million
Choke Points and Congestion: $2.952 billion - this is code for building more freeway lanes and ramps, and is a collosal waste of money to destroy quality of life

Taking the last item plus the $2 billion for AWV replacement plus $500 million for SR-520 expansion yields a total of $5.452 billion (out of $7.139 billion) worth of projects that are worse than useless, and that actively contribute to worsening congestion in the state.

I would vote against I-912 if the gas tax increase were about safety and improving Washington's quality of life. Unfortunately, it is mostly about building more roads to encourage ever increasing sprawl.

Vote YES on I-912.

 

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