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SOUNDOFF: Improve traffic without more taxes
By Tim Eyman
Jim Larsen’s Oct. 14 column, “Candidates agree to cut, spend,” highlighted that candidates for office often don’t tell voters the straight scoop. That’s why it’s critical for voters to not only vote for elected representatives, but to also lobby them for policies you care about through the initiative process.
It is a fact that Olympia pays more attention to issues when the voters approve them at the ballot box. Lower class sizes, higher teacher pay, reduced car tabs, limits on property taxes: we never get everything we vote for, but elected officials try harder when the voters illustrate that they care enough about an issue to approve it with an initiative.
This year’s “Reduce Traffic Congestion Initiative” I-985 is a no-new-taxes transportation reform proposal meant to get Olympia focused on this critical issue.
Making our transportation system work better needs to be a priority because our state is grinding to a halt – that increases citizens’ time and frustration on the road, slows down the growth of our economy, lowers take-home pay, kills jobs, and reduces tax revenue to state and local governments.
There is no doubt that we can do better with what we already have. Clearing out accidents faster, requiring all 281 cities and 39 counties to optimize traffic flow by installing state-of-the-art traffic light synchronization technology, opening carpool lanes to everyone during non-peak hours, just as other cities do: these policies will increase traffic flow for everyone. They’re not going to eliminate our state’s traffic congestion problem, but they will make things better and prod Olympia to do a better job on transportation.
I-985’s effective traffic flow policies are relatively inexpensive, but they do cost money. But rather than demanding more from taxpayers, I-985 demands that Olympia spend more effectively the money they’re already taking from us. I-985 doesn’t raise taxes one penny, instead it dedicates a small portion of the existing state sales tax from the purchase of new and used vehicles, the profits from red light cameras, and revenue previously spent for art on transportation projects toward funding I-985’s policies.
How should the government adapt to I-985’s $150 million per year dedication of existing revenue?
Under voter-approved Initiative 900, State Auditor Brian Sonntag, a Democrat, has completed 13 audits so far, made 496 recommendations, and identified $3.5 billion in potential savings. Three and half billion dollars. If Olympia stops ignoring his growing list of recommendations and starts implementing them instead, not only will they cover the miniscule fiscal impact of I-985, but they’ll go a long way toward helping the Legislature close the upcoming $3.2 billion budget deficit.
When the Olympian newspaper endorsed I-985, they wrote: “The Olympian's editorial board recommends a ‘yes’ vote based in large part on the message it sends to lawmakers: Comprehensive solutions to the congestion problem must be found ... This initiative is about legislative inaction. Every ignored performance audit is a potential initiative.”
Our primary motivation for I-985 is to show Olympia that neither the average taxpayer nor our state’s struggling economy can afford higher taxes right now; instead government must prioritize and spend more effectively the money they’re already taking from us. Remember, Auditor Sonntag has identified $3.5 billion in savings.
Opponents’ proposals force taxpayers to pay more – I-985 forces Olympia to spend existing revenues more effectively.
Washington is the 5th highest taxed state in the nation – I-985 keeps us from hitting No. 1.
Taxpayers are tapped out. Let’s tell Olympia: don’t take more from taxpayers, adopt Sonntag’s growing list of audit recommendations and reform government instead. Vote “Yes” on I-985.
Tim Eyman is I-985 co-sponsor: 425-493-8707, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ReduceCongestion.org.