Save home rule and local control: Vote NO on I-776

“Taxpayers of Puget Sound deserve a revote on light rail! Sound Transit is unquestionably the worst agency in government history!” Sound familiar? It’s Tim Eyman, putting forth his deceptive arguments for Initiative 776, his plan to eliminate local motor vehicle excise taxes that pay for badly needed transit investments. Eyman already intimidated the Legislature into doing away with the state’s MVET with Initiative 695, even after it was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Tim Eyman can trash Sound Transit all he wants, but what he’s not telling the public is this: I-776 is an attempt to use a statewide initiative to sabotage home rule and local control. Out of thirty-nine counties in Washington State, only four have levied motor vehicle excise taxes to raise funds for road repairs and transit: King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Douglas. And, of course, the Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) collects its own MVET, which funds regional transit projects, including the planned Link light rail system.

Take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of Eyman urging voters in the vast majority of the state’s counties to approve an initiative that won’t save them any money. People in Spokane, Vancouver, Aberdeen, Pascso, Yakima, Ellensburg, and other communities outside of King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Douglas counties are not going to enjoy cheaper vehicle fees if I-776 passes and goes into effect. But Eyman’s not telling them that. The counties that will be affected are those that have chosen to tax themselves to pay for transportation projects.

It’s hard to imagine that voters in Camas, Kennewick, or Spokane Valley would like being told what to do by voters in Seattle, Tacoma, or Bellevue. That is why we govern ourselves under the principle of home rule and local control here in Washington State. We are one state, but we have many diverse communities with different needs.

For example, Seattle is a densely populated seaport city situated on an isthmus that badly needs more mass transit. Seattle’s needs are very different than Clarkston’s, Goldendale’s, or Twisp’s. Recognizing this, our Legislature has provided counties, cities, port districts, school districts, and other jurisdictions with revenue authority so that decisions about funding services can be made close to home.

I-776 would take eliminate one of the tools that Sound Transit and county governments have (the motor vehicle excise tax) to tackle gridlock and provide mobility options. Going forward, counties would no longer have the option of choosing to levy an MVET, because the state law allowing it would be gone.

I-776 is an assault on local control. Tim Eyman and the Fagans have clearly have NOT gotten the message, for when asked about this issue, they either decline to comment or start trash talking Sound Transit like preprogrammed jukeboxes.

Of course, the great irony is that even if I-776 passes, Sound Transit, which Eyman wants to dismantle, may keep on collecting its MVET revenue anyway, because it has pledged its MVET to pay off bonds that have already been sold.

It would be a mistake for us to take away tools that Sound Transit and county governments already have to keep our people and goods moving smoothly.  Vote NO on Initiative 776 and a send a message to Tim Eyman: Keep local decisions in local hands!

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