Debunking the Yes on I-912 campaign’s arguments

Argument: Citizens were denied a right to vote, or even to be heard. The Gas Tax Hike was passed by the Legislature at the last minute with little debate or thoughtful deliberation. The Legislature even attached an “emergency clause” to the bill that took away our constitutional right to challenge any legislative action by citizen referendum.

Response: The idea that citizens didn’t have a chance to be heard is nonsense. The legislative process is an open, collaborative process that includes public hearings. (The initiative process, on the other hand, does not include public hearings). There was a great deal of debate as well as thoughtful deliberation – ask the legislators who voted on the bill.

Having citizens vote on every single policy proposal completely defeats the purpose of representative democracy and makes no sense. We elect legislators to write our laws for us. If we don’t like the laws they write, we can vote them out of office.

The Washington State Constitution gives the Legislature the power to attach an emergency clause to any bill it considers an emergency. Lawmakers made the decision to use their constitutional rights and powers to attach an emergency clause to the legislation because our decaying transportation infrastructure is a massive emergency.

Argument: The 9.5¢ gas tax hike is only a down payment on the real cost of the projects involved. Many of the projects are not fully funded by this massive tax increase. Instead, voters are required to raise their taxes again to pay for these projects.

Response:  The gas tax increase funds some 274 projects throughout the state of Washington. Of the 274 projects, 241 (that’s 87% of the projects) are expected to be completed with the funds from the 2005 gas tax package. That means designed, constructed and in use by the public. This is not simply a “down payment”.

As for the remaining projects that require additional funding, it’s not reasonable to expect the entire state to pay the entire cost of a few very expensive projects that mostly benefit one area. Taxpayers in the Seattle area, for instance, will be asked for additional funds to pay for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR-520 floating bridge.

Argument: There are no actual plans for the major projects the gas tax hike is supposed to fund. We are being asked to pay billions in new taxes for projects that haven’t been designed yet.

Response: The major projects proponents reference are the Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR-520 floating bridge. The idea that “there are no actual plans” for the these two major projects is ridiculous. WSDOT has announced its preferred alternative for replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct – a tunnel – as well as developed four and six lane alternatives for replacement of the floating bridge. There are plans for the replacement of these structures.

Argument: The new gas tax, vehicle weight and license fees will cost families hundreds of dollars each year. And it won’t cut a single minute off the time you spend stuck in traffic.

Response:  The transportation package does include fees based on vehicle weight and it also raises the fees for driver’s licenses, permits and license plates. But the money motorists will be paying pales in comparison to the old motor vehicle excise tax, which was repealed by the Legislature in 2000. The proponents have the gall to predict that the funding won’t shorten traffic time. The reality is that the gas tax increase is a very modest hike.

What’s more, the proponents of I-912 have totally misrepresented the point of the funding. Most of the new funding will go toward shoring up deteriorating highways and bridges like Highway 520 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Critics bemoan the lack of new pavement, but new pavement will not solve any of our existing transportation problems.

Argument:  (The) legislative gas tax increase costs us $8.5 billion and helps no one. Even worse, it doesn’t provide enough money to finish a single project. That means even higher taxes are just down the road!

Response: The proponents are wrong when they say the gas tax increase helps no one. Replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the 520 Floating Bridge will make motorists and roadways much safer. Investing a stronger, more efficient transportation infrastructure also provides good jobs for thousands of people and helps our society as a whole.

Legislators did not fully fund all the projects the gas tax pays for because they want local governments to pitch in on large projects that benefit them most. That’s good news for residents in counties with smaller populations. It also means that users of the roadway will help contribute toward the cost of the improvements through tolls.

Argument: $800 million for rail and transit projects from a tax meant to pay for better roads. I-405 receives little money …

Response:  Interstate 405 is scheduled to receive $972 million over the next four years. That’s a lot more than a “little money”. Initiative proponents apparently don’t understand that dense urban areas require mass transit options. The rail and transit projects are sorely needed to improve our transportation system. The goal of the package is to improve our transportation infrastructure, not to buy new pavement.

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