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October 09, 2005

What I-912 is Really About

Andrew Garber's recent piece in the Seattle Times on I-912, Gas initiative message blurry, gives a lengthy tour of the history of various anti-tax, anti-government initiatives in Washington, before coming to a partially-true-but-woefully-incomplete conclusion.

Garber thinks that I-912 is mostly about Republican activists' desire for revenge against Governor Gregoire and Democrats.  (He's right.)  He also thinks its about conservatives' hatred for public transportation and HOV lanes.  (Which is probably true but totally illogical since most of the gas tax money goes for roads and HOV lanes do more to reduce congestion than simply adding more regular lanes.) 

Garber also links I-912 to national ultra-conservative "drown government in a bathtub" strategy:

The I-912 campaign has implications that go beyond Washington state, said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C. His group has churned out a steady stream of press releases endorsing the measure. He noted that Oklahoma voters rejected a nickel increase to their gas tax just last month.

If both Oklahoma and Washington reject tax increases, it sends a message to lawmakers that "we do not like your priorities. Knock it off," Norquist said. "I think it will lead to more government reform and fewer votes on tax increases."

And this, too, is true.

But what Garber completely overlooks is the fact that I-912 proponents are also violently against safer roads.  Because that's what most of the gas tax money they're trying to cut will pay for.  Vital safety projects like fixing the Viaduct and 520.  And dozens more highway safety projects all over the state.

While there's definitely an ideological component to the I-912 the media would do far better to focus on the real-world consequences should I-912 pass, rather than the political gamesmanship in play.

Posted by Jon Stahl on October 9, 2005 at 08:17 PM in Ballot Initiatives | Permalink


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I read Jon Stahl’s comment concerning the people who were for the I-912, and believe that there are some problems with it. The use of the phrase, “violently against safer roads” is probably not true. I sincerely doubt that anybody who votes for this is violently against safe roads. One other problem is that it is a false dilemma because people could vote for this and still be for safe roads.

Posted by: anon | Oct 14, 2005 5:55:44 PM

I am for safer roads. I am against wasting money on expanding freeway capacity in western Washington, and against replacing and perpetuating the worst transportation mistake in Seattle, the Alaska Way Viaduct.

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 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.

Posted by: Roy Smith | Oct 17, 2005 12:25:59 PM

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