Category Archives: Rethinking and Reframing

Debunking Tim Eyman’s I-976 whoppers: Car tabs actually *do* pay for bridges and roads

From the Campaign TrailRethinking and Reframing

The last few years have been littered with setbacks and defeats for disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman. From 2016-2018, Eyman failed to qualify anything to Washington’s general election ballot despite half a dozen attempts.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has been working tirelessly to hold Eyman accountable for his willful and blatant violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws, dealing Eyman loss after loss in court.

Eyman is counting on an electoral victory in November to revive the fortunes of his flailing initiative factory. He has declared that his Initiative 976, a measure that would gut $4.2 billion in transportation funding over the next six years, will pass overwhelmingly in all thirty-nine of Washington’s counties and even pass in Seattle, which has consistently rejected his destructive schemes for twenty years.

If we look at what Eyman has said in response to questions about I-976’s fiscal impacts, though, we can see Eyman’s not confident about winning in November. Why else would Eyman feel the need to lie about the extent of the damage that his measure would cause?

The whoppers Eyman has been telling about I-976 deserve to be called out and debunked.

In the last three weeks, perhaps out of irritation with Keep Washington Rolling’s television ads, Eyman has aggressively peddled a particularly egregious lie that can be easily demonstrated to be an utter falsehood.

EYMAN CLAIM: “Car tab taxes don’t pay for bridges or roads – gas taxes do.” (Source: Eyman’s Facebook Wall, October 6th, 2019).

Eyman also repeated this fabrication in an interview with KREM 2 News of Spokane:

Tim Eyman lies to KREM 2 News

Statement from Tim Eyman: “Gas taxes pay for highways and roads, car tab taxes do not. Not a penny of the car tab tax goes to roads — the government spends car tab taxes on non-road stuff.”

Ironically, this lie appeared onscreen during a segment entitled “Verify”. The lie was not subsequently debunked by reporter Tim Pham — though it should have been.

THE REALITY: Vehicle fees — or “car tab taxes”, in Eyman parlance — do in fact pay for bridges and roads. At the state level, many vehicle fees are deposited in accounts that benefit our roads and bridges, including the Motor Vehicle Fund. At the local level, more than sixty cities have formed what are known as transportation benefit districts to levy vehicle fees, primarily for street maintenance and road repairs.

Here’s an example of a Washington State vehicle registration renewal bill, circa 2019:

Fees and Donations
Registration License – Renewal $30.00
Vehicle Weight $25.00
Registration Filing $4.50
Registration Service Fee $8.00
License Plate Technology $0.25
Department of Licensing Service $0.50
State Parks Donation $5.00
RTA Excise Tax $67.00
Total $140.25

Notice the first line item… “Registration License — Renewal”. That thirty dollars benefits the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, and the Motor Vehicle Fund.

RCW 46.68.035 directs how the funds from that line item are to be invested:

Disposition of combined vehicle license fees.

The director shall forward all proceeds from vehicle license fees received by the director for vehicles registered under RCW 46.17.330, 46.17.350(1) (c) and (k), 46.17.355, and 46.17.400(1)(c) to the state treasurer to be distributed into accounts according to the following method:

(1) 22.36 percent must be deposited into the state patrol highway account of the motor vehicle fund;

(2) 1.375 percent must be deposited into the Puget Sound ferry operations account of the motor vehicle fund;

(3) 5.237 percent must be deposited into the transportation 2003 account (nickel account);

(4) 11.533 percent must be deposited into the transportation partnership account created in RCW 46.68.290; and

(5) The remaining proceeds must be deposited into the motor vehicle fund.

It says right there in the law that vehicle license fees (car tabs) must be deposited in accounts that provide funding for the State Patrol, Washington State Ferries, highway projects authorized by the Legislature, and the Motor Vehicle Fund.

The state’s Motor Vehicle Fund “shall be for the use of the state, and through state agencies, for the use of counties, cities, and towns for proper road, street, and highway purposes,” according to RCW46.68.070. (Emphasis is ours).

State vehicle weight fees, meanwhile, benefit the Freight Mobility Multimodal Account and the main Multimodal Account. These accounts fund all transportation modes, including our highway system as well as the state’s rail initiatives. See RCW 46.68.415.

And most cities levying vehicle fees are using them for street maintenance. Like Spokane, Sedro-Woolley, Prosser, or Vancouver.

So, again, when Tim Eyman says car tabs don’t pay for bridges and roads, he’s lying.

Why does Eyman lie so brazenly?

Because he knows that as satirist Jonathan Swift once observed, a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.

Eyman’s idol Donald Trump, the Liar-in-Chief, knows this too, and takes full advantage.

At NPI, what we do when we read an Eyman email missive, see an Eyman Facebook posting, or hear a clip of Eyman is speaking is assume that everything Eyman has said is false until it can be proven true. This is not our normal practice; we like to assume that people mean well as opposed to assuming hostile, malicious intent.

But with known con artists like Tim Eyman, it’s absolutely necessary to invert the default.

Otherwise, the con artist succeeds in their aim of conning people.

Our advice to anyone covering I-976 or any of Tim Eyman’s activities is this: Trust nothing Eyman says. Nothing. If you ask Eyman for comment out of fairness, and he lies — as he so often does — call him on it. You can say: “Mr. Eyman told us this, but it’s actually not true… here’s what we found when we followed the facts.”

If media outlets allow Eyman’s lies to go unchecked, they spread. And that’s bad for Washington’s civic health. It promotes cynicism and mistrust in government.

As taxpayers, it’s important we connect the dots between the taxes and fees we pay and the services we get in return. We should all understand the workings of our government to the best of our ability. After all, these services are ours. We pay for them.

They belong to us.

Debunking Tim Eyman’s I-976 whoppers: There is no multi-billion dollar surplus available to backfill I-976 cuts

From the Campaign TrailRethinking and Reframing

The last few years have been littered with setbacks and defeats for disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman. From 2016-2018, Eyman failed to qualify anything to Washington’s general election ballot despite half a dozen attempts.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has been working tirelessly to hold Eyman accountable for his willful and blatant violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws, dealing Eyman loss after loss in court.

Eyman is counting on an electoral victory in November to revive the fortunes of his flailing initiative factory. He has declared that his Initiative 976, a measure that would gut $4.2 billion in transportation funding over the next six years, will pass overwhelmingly in all thirty-nine of Washington’s counties and even pass in Seattle, which has consistently rejected his destructive schemes for twenty years.

If we look at what Eyman has said in response to questions about I-976’s fiscal impacts, though, we can see Eyman’s not confident about winning in November. Why else would Eyman feel the need to lie about the extent of the damage that his measure would cause?

The whoppers Eyman has been telling about I-976 deserve to be called out and debunked.

For example, last week, when contacted for comment by television stations like Seattle’s KING5 and Spokane’s KREM in response to the Keep Washington Rolling coalition’s autumn kickoffs in Spokane and Seattle, Eyman dishonestly asserted that there is a free lunch available to people who vote yes on I-976.

EYMAN CLAIM: “With the state having a $3.5 billion net surplus and record revenues, politicians threats, lies, and scare tactics are particularly unbelievable and absurd… There is more than enough revenue to backfill any affected government program.” (Source: King County leaders: $30 car tabs would be ‘catastrophic’ for transit projects — 09/18/2019)

THE REALITY: Wrong. What’s hard to believe is that Tim Eyman is still making outrageously false statements like this when he knows he can be fact checked.

Then again, perhaps he figures if Donald Trump can get away with it, so can he.

There is no ‘net surplus’ that can be used to backfill the revenue that would be lost if I-976 were to be implemented. It simply doesn’t exist.

And the comment that Washington is seeing ‘record revenues’ is meaningless.

The Washington State of today cannot be compared to past periods using absolute dollar figures, which Tim Eyman sometimes plots onto charts and trots out in support of his incorrect arguments about ‘record’ taxation.

To draw comparisons between different time periods, economists use a metric like income or expenditures per $1,000 in personal income.

As OFM’s data shows, in the 1990s, both income and expenditures per $1,000 in personal income was higher than it is today. That means that the extent to which we are investing in public services overall has actually decreased. In other words, taxes were higher twenty-five years ago than they are today. Even if Eyman’s mythical $3.5 billion existed, it wouldn’t be enough to offset the revenue I-976 would eliminate.

The Office of Financial Management has analyzed that I-976 would eliminate $4.2 billion in funding at the state and local levels over the next six years.

The impact is even worse over ten years… Eyman’s favorite time period.

Sound Transit has analyzed that the loss of the motor vehicle excise tax revenue would blow a giant hole in its financing, jeopardizing as much as $20 billion in transit expansion funding that voters already approved.

Senior Northwest Progressive Institute boardmember Gael Tarleton, who serves as Chair of the Finance Committee in the Washington State House of Representatives, says it’s vital that Eyman’s false claims be fact checked so voters aren’t misled by his lies.

“Tim Eyman talks about budgets as if he knows what he’s talking about. He’s lying,” said Tarleton. “There is no multi-billion dollar ‘net surplus’ available for the Legislature to tap if I-976 is implemented.” She elaborated:

Presently, there are two main sources of transportation funding in our state: the fuel tax and vehicle fees, which are supplemented by tolls and ferry fares in specific corridors.”

Fuel tax proceeds can only be used for highway purposes in accordance with our state constitution. That leaves vehicle fees as the sole major funding source for multimodal projects that empower pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists to get where they want to go. State-level vehicle fee revenue pays for Amtrak Cascades intercity rail service, keeps our Washington State Patrol troopers on the beat, supports freight mobility infrastructure, and vital services like vanpools and transit grants for rural communities.

If we don’t defeat I-976, Eyman’s latest scheme, countless essential projects will be delayed or canceled, because the state doesn’t simply have any money sitting around to replace the lost billions. The cuts I-976 would necessitate will set back our efforts to invest in safer roads, earthquake-resistant bridges, and higher quality transit by two decades.

Despite the confidence he projects, Tim Eyman is clearly nervous about losing this campaign. That’s why he is lying to the public about the destruction I-976 would cause when he does interviews with the press.

Debunking Tim Eyman’s I-976 whoppers: This measure is no “haircut”

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

The last few years have been littered with setbacks and defeats for disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman. From 2016-2018, Eyman failed to qualify anything to Washington’s general election ballot despite half a dozen attempts.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office has been working tirelessly to hold Eyman accountable for his willful and blatant violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws, dealing Eyman loss after loss in court.

Eyman is counting on an electoral victory in November to revive the fortunes of his flailing initiative factory. He has declared that his Initiative 976, a measure that would gut $4.2 billion in transportation funding over the next six years, will pass overwhelmingly in all thirty-nine of Washington’s counties and even pass in Seattle, which has consistently rejected his destructive schemes for twenty years.

If we look at what Eyman has said in response to questions about I-976’s fiscal impacts, though, we can see Eyman’s not confident about winning in November. Why else would Eyman feel the need to lie about the extent of the damage that his measure would cause?

The whoppers Eyman has been telling about I-976 deserve to be called out and debunked.

Let’s start with a claim he made a month ago on KIRO Newsradio: that I-976 would only rob Sound Transit of “a small percentage of money”.

EYMAN CLAIM: “The fact is Initiative 976 is like a haircut when it comes to Sound Transit… We’re only talking about a small percentage of money.” (Source: Can Washington survive $30 car tab measure if it passes? — 08/16/2019)

THE REALITY: Wrong. Implementation of Tim Eyman’s I-976 would leave in ruins plans to deliver light rail expansion to Everett, Tacoma, Ballard, West Seattle, and Kirkland/Issaquah, as well as deploy bus rapid transit on Interstate 405 and expand Sounder commuter rail to DuPont and Tillicum. That’s because Sound Transit would lose an essential major revenue source, which would in turn severely impair its ability to borrow money, jeopardizing an estimated $20 billion in funding overall.

This is not an accident; it’s by design.

Tim Eyman is well aware that the loss of Sound Transit’s motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) revenue would blow a giant hole in Sound Transit 3. He’s counting on it: his goal is to sabotage Sound Transit 3’s voter approved projects so they don’t get built.

He’s previously admitted his true intentions to friendly audiences.

In 2016, when Eyman was trying to qualify a measure almost identical to I-976, he pitched it as the “NO on ST3” campaign in an address to the Eastside Republican Club in Bellevue, on March 1st, 2016. Said Eyman in his remarks:

I love the idea of every voter in the state being able to register their vehicle for a flat-rate, easy to understand $30, but what gets me giddy is the idea of ripping the heart out of Sound Transit. This agency is so unaccountable, so rogue, so completely devoid of any reality that this is our one chance to be able to gut them like a pig, and that’s what I really love about this initiative.

Emphasis is ours. Listen to the audio here.

The next time Eyman tries to dismiss the impact of I-976 as giving Sound Transit “a haircut”, just remember that we have Tim Eyman on tape saying that the primary objective of doing a new initiative to cap vehicle fees at thirty dollars is to rip the heart out of Sound Transit and gut the agency like a pig.

That’s a far cry from “a haircut”. Eyman’s August 16th statement is compelling evidence that he’s worried that if voters know the truth about the damage I-976 would cause, they’ll decide to fill in the oval next to NO on the ballot.

Despite the confidence he projects, Eyman is clearly nervous about losing this campaign. That’s why he is lying to the public about the destruction I-976 would cause when he does interviews with the press.

Tim Eyman hit with additional sanctions and ordered to report $766,447 in personal ‘gifts’ as campaign contributions

Eye on Money: DevelopmentsRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon granted Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s motion to impose additional sanctions on disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who has consistently tried to evade accountability for his violations of Washington’s public disclosure law through a legal defense strategy we’ve dubbed “stonewalling in the extreme”.

Dixon ruled that contributions Eyman has previously received as personal ‘gifts’ qualify as campaign contributions and affirmed that Eyman remains in contempt because he has failed to comply with the Court’s discovery orders.

Dixon also awarded the state attorney’s fees.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder Andrew Villeneuve called the ruling a significant development in the case that brings Eyman closer to his day of reckoning.

“The barricades that Tim Eyman has thrown up to shield himself from accountability are crumbling,” said Villeneuve.

“For years, Tim has tried to pretend that the fundraising he does for himself is separate from the fundraising he does for his initiative committees. But that is a fiction. The truth is that money given to benefit Tim Eyman benefits his initiative factory, and money given to whichever scam Eyman happens to be hawking at the moment benefits Eyman.”

“Just look at how I-976, Eyman’s latest initiative, got onto the ballot. The lion’s share of the money that paid for signature gathering came from Eyman himself; Eyman claimed he cashed out his and his wife’s retirement fund in order to make the signature drive a reality. The PDC reports for I-976 make it look like Eyman is his own biggest donor. Except he’s really not, because he doesn’t have a way of supporting himself without the continuing generosity of wealthy supporters like Kemper Freeman, Jr., who stated in a deposition that he wanted to make sure Eyman had enough ‘grocery money.'”

“There is simply no separation between Eyman’s personal and political funds anymore because he has mixed them so thoroughly.”

“It is entirely appropriate that Judge Dixon has found that the ‘gifts’ Eyman has been soliciting are really campaign contributions and are subject to public disclosure. If Eyman won’t comply and file the requisite reports, he’ll find himself in even more trouble.”

Journalists, when reporting on I-976 (devastates transportation funding), don’t forget about the impacts!

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Equations. They’re an essential element of mathematics: statements that assert the equality of multiple expressions.

There are two sides to every equation, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the materials that Tim Eyman sends out about the initiatives that he sponsors.

For example, consider the “info sheet” that Eyman distributed today for Initiative 976. It contains no discussion about what the people of Washington stand to lose if Eyman’s latest measure is adopted. There isn’t even a passing acknowledgment that the initiative could result in the cancellation of countless projects to improve mobility plus cutbacks to existing services.

The Office of Financial Management analyzed last week that I-976 would result in the loss of more than $4 billion for transportation investments in revenue at the state, regional, and local levels over six years.

Affected projects and services include:

  • Amtrak Cascades, a regional intercity rail service that provides Washington’s only rail link with British Columbia
  • Road and sidewalk maintenance in sixty cities, including road resurfacing
  • King Country Metro bus service funded by Seattle taxpayers
  • Essential freight mobility projects needed to ensure the smooth movement of goods
  • Sound Transit system expansion (ST3), including light rail, commuter rail, express bus, and bus rapid transit projects

Eyman is fully aware that services like Amtrak Cascades rely upon vehicle fees for funding and that the Washington State Constitution prohibits the use of taxes on fuel for non-highway purposes.

Eyman is lying when he suggests the funding for these projects and services could simply come from somewhere else. Where’s that $4+ billion supposed to come from? Money for the essential services our economy requires doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from taxes. Taxes are investments… essential investments. It is not possible to repeal billions in revenue and suffer no consequences. There are always consequences. This is basic math!

We saw this in the aftermath of I-695 in 1999 and I-776 in 2002.

For example, Washington State Ferries still hasn’t fully recovered from the impact of I-695, while the King County Department of Transportation still hasn’t recovered from the impact of I-776. Those measures were considered and voted on decades ago, but the impacts are still being felt today, as the elected officials and public workers who are responsible for providing mobility services to the public can attest.

Many communities lost funding against their will. For example, people in King County voted against both I-695 and I-776.

If I-976 is implemented, then there will be cuts to already-approved projects and services. These would be significant cuts that would be noticeable and widely felt. Cuts that increase traffic, make our tax code more unfair, and saddle us with costs we don’t need or want. For example, Everett and Tacoma could lose their planned light rail stations because it’s unlikely there would be sufficient funds to build them.

That’s the other side of the vehicle fee equation… the side Eyman doesn’t want you to ever talk about, but which you have a duty and obligation to cover so that Washingtonians can make an informed decision on I-976.

The truth is, Washingtonians and their elected representatives have voted repeatedly to fund multimodal transportation infrastructure.

(“Multimodal” refers to the concept of enabling people to get around through different modes, whether that’s walking, biking, taking the bus, taking the train, vanpooling, or using a scooter, as opposed to merely driving alone.)

Eyman is ideologically opposed to investing in any kind of transportation infrastructure that does not subsidize automobile travel… and in particular, single occupancy vehicle travel. (High occupancy vehicle lanes are part of our highway system, but Eyman opposes those because you can’t drive alone in them during peak hours, at least not without paying a toll, something else Eyman is opposed to.)

How do we know this? Because Eyman has previously sponsored initiatives to redirect money from mass transit to roads (I-745 in 2000), open high occupancy vehicle lanes to everyone during all but a few hours of the day (I-985, 2008) and prohibit variable tolling (I-1125, 2011). Washington voters rejected all three of those initiatives.

Sadly, Tim Eyman doesn’t care. He is just as determined now to undermine and destroy multimodal infrastructure as he was twenty years ago.

Eyman also doesn’t care that voters in Puget Sound voted repeatedly to expand light rail, commuter rail, express bus, and bus rapid transit projects by approving Sound Move in 1996, Sound Transit 2 in 2008, and Sound Transit 3 in 2016.

The outcome didn’t go his way, so he considers the will of the voters irrelevant. Meaningless. Not even worth acknowledging.

It is vital that voters understand both sides of the equation — not just Eyman’s side — before they return their ballots. So make sure when you’re covering I-976 to talk about the impacts. In detail. I-976 would wreak havoc in every part of the state, so no matter where your audience is, there’s a local angle (perhaps several!) to explore.

At the NO on I-976 website, home to the Keep Washington Rolling coalition, you’ll find a useful fact sheet which delves more deeply into the impacts, as well as frequently asked questions and a list of cities that would be directly affected by I-976.

Statement on the failure of Tim Eyman’s I-1648

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

This afternoon, Tim Eyman’s massively hyped, “unprecedented” effort to qualify an initiative to the November ballot to wipe out the Legislature’s 2019 revenue reforms imploded in spectacular fashion when the signatures Eyman was clamoring for from his followers failed to materialize.

As a consequence, I-1648 will not go before voters this autumn.

I-1648 sought to repeal all of the revenue reforms enacted by the Legislature this past session and slap a one-year expiration date on any future revenue reforms not subjected to a public vote. The measure would have jeopardized billions of dollars over the next four years for essential public services throughout Washington State, cutting taxes for big banks and oil companies in the process.

Northwest Progressive Institute founder and Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman initiatives for over seventeen years, called the demise of I-1648 welcome news. I-1648’s implosion will keep Washington’s budget whole, preventing unexpected cuts to education, healthcare, environmental protection, and human services.

“More than seven million people depend on the essential public services funded by our state budget,” said Villeneuve. “Tim Eyman’s I-1648 would have put the progress we’ve made on progressive tax reform this year at risk. Thankfully, because Eyman and his cohorts were unable to gather sufficient signatures, I-1648 is no longer a danger to our communities.”

“Had I-1648 qualified for the ballot, it would have represented a grave threat to our schools, access to college, forest health and firefighting, sorely needed investments in behavioral health, the removal of barriers to fish passage, and the cleanup of polluted waterways.”

“Our elected representatives are required to produce a budget that goes out four years, not just two. They worked hard to craft a budget that takes into account the needs of Washington’s growing population. Although that budget only contained modest revenue reforms, Tim Eyman nevertheless professed himself to be enraged, and set about trying to overturn the will of the people that the voters chose to write a budget for our state.”

“Happily, he has failed, and I-1648 is dead. It will be a pleasure to add a new entry to Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart today.”

Ever the con man, Eyman tried to will success into existence through bluster and hyberbole, in an effort reminiscent of his disastrous attempt to subject LGBTQ+ rights to a vote in 2006. It didn’t work, as those who were on hand today to watch Eyman fail in person got to see for themselves.

Eyman and his followers did not even collect the minimum number of signatures required by the Constitution, which means none of their petitions will be counted or processed.

(The Secretary of State only accepts submissions of signatures that are beyond the minimum number required, currently 259,622. Sponsors are advised to obtain a cushion of signatures equivalent to 25% of the minimum required to offset duplicate and invalid signatures.)

Eyman already has an initiative on the ballot for November — I-976, which would wipe out billions in bipartisan transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels. The Keep Washington Rolling coalition, of which NPI is a member, is working hard to build a strong NO campaign to defeat I-976. Learn more at no976.org.

Wondering why King County doesn’t have more snow routes? Remember, Tim Eyman initiatives have consequences

Rethinking and Reframing

February 2019 is going to be remembered up and down the I-5 corridor as the month that much of Western Washington turned into a winter wonderland resembling C.S. Lewis’ fictional land of Narnia under the rule of the White Witch, Jadis.

Two walloping snowstorms have already upended normal life in and around the state’s largest urban centers of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, which normally see mild winters thanks to the influence of the Pacific Ocean. And more snow is on the way.

The wintry conditions are making travel difficult. Many people have wondered on social media why the state and local governments don’t have more resources available to deal with the snow and ice and keep the roads clear. On the snow and ice page of its website, King County’s Department of Transportation has an answer to this question:

Why are there fewer snow routes?

King County crews respond to weather events that affect the bridges and roads of unincorporated areas – the network that keeps communities connected. In past years, the county was able to plow and sand critical snow routes. But the county is no longer funded to plow and sand as much as it used to.

Unfortunately, nearly three decades of annexations, declines in gas tax revenues, and the effects of voter initiatives have led to the chronic underfunding of the local bridge and road system.

Fewer resources means fewer staff to perform work during inclement weather as well as year round, resulting in significantly reduced service levels for maintaining roads and bridges in unincorporated areas including plowing and sanding services. Key transportation routes for public safety will be plowed, however, in the past we were able to open secondary routes. The county used to plow and treat 30 percent of county-managed roads, but this year there are only resources to plow 15 percent of the county’s 1,500 miles of roads.

Read the Strategic Plan for Road Services (SPRS) update and the Line of Business Plan.

For a longer discussion of this topic that offers much more context, see: Must-read article: King County struggles to fund roads and bridges.

Must-read article: King County struggles to fund roads and bridges

Rethinking and ReframingThreat Analysis

Journalist Aaron Kunkler has written an excellent article for Reporter Newspapers that nicely summarizes King County’s rural roads funding crisis, a problem rooted partially in the implementation of several Tim Eyman initiatives just after the turn of the century.

It’s a must-read:

Funding for roads and bridges in King County has been dwindling for years, and despite warnings as far back as 2014, money for capital investments in unincorporated areas is still set to run out within the next six years.

The scope of the problem has been well documented in various studies, including the 2017 annual bridges report released last August. The county owns or maintains 182 bridges that range in age from 10 to 100 years old, with the median age being 65 — or 15 years older than their typical useful lifespan.

Due to declining revenue between 2012 and 2018, no new standalone bridge replacements have occurred since 2014, and work is focused exclusively on daily safety and maintenance work, the report found. King County Local Services department public information officer Brent Champaco said when money for capital improvements runs out, other basic maintenance and operations services will be reduced to stay within budget.

The article goes on to talk about Republican King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert’s long running effort to draw attention to the crisis. Lambert represents the 3rd District, a mix of suburban and rural communities in northeast King County.

The 3rd includes a significant swath of rural King County, including the town of Skykomish, which is accessible only by travel through Snohomish County. The other predominantly rural King County Council district is the 9th, represented by Reagan Dunn.

Lambert has been on the Council for decades and has seen the impact that Tim Eyman’s destructive initiatives have had on her constituents, particularly these three measures, which Eyman got past voters early on his career:

  • Initiative 695 (passed in 1999, struck down in 2000, and reinstated that same year): Gutted the statewide motor vehicle excise tax
  • Initiative 747 (passed in 2001, implemented that same year, struck down in 2007, then almost immediately reinstated): Artificially caps property taxes
  • Initiative 776 (passed in 2002, partially upheld in 2003): Repealed the local motor vehicle excise tax collected by King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Douglas counties

Implementation of all three of these initiatives significantly reduced funding for essential public services in Washington State, including rural roads.

I-695 repealed an estimated $1.1 billion in the 1999-2001 biennium and $1.7 billion in the 2001-03 biennium. Before the motor vehicle excise tax was gutted, 24% of the revenue it was generating was going to local governments like King County, 29% was going to local transit agencies, and 47% was going to state-level transportation needs, according to the Office of Financial Management’s I-695 Fiscal Impact Statement.

When I-747 came along a short while later, it began a long and tortuous cycle of death by a thousand cuts that continues to this day. Cities and counties are still hurting from the combined one-two punch of I-695 and I-747 more than a decade and a half later.

Four counties, including King County, were dealt a third punch in 2002 with Tim Eyman’s I-776, which eliminated the local motor vehicle excise tax.

Seattle Times reporter Keith Ervin described the impact of Eyman’s I-776 on the county’s rural roads in an article published on November 12th, 2003. Here’s an excerpt:

A staff report to the Metropolitan King County Council yesterday said the ruling has made County Executive Ron Sims’ proposed roads budget “inoperable.” The Supreme Court last month upheld the constitutionality of voter-approved I-776, which rolls back car tabs to $30 a year.

The measure shuts off a yearly $4.8 million revenue stream for King County.

Sims has placed on hold his earlier proposal to set $11.3 million in road money aside as an incentive for cities that agree to annex unincorporated urban areas. The county also may postpone or scrap the sale of $80 million in bonds that would have sped up long-awaited road improvements.

Budget director Steve Call said yesterday the impact will be more severe than the initial revenue loss suggests because the county road fund is used to finance bonds and obtain matching funds from the federal and state governments. On bridge projects, the federal government pays up to 80 percent of the cost, Call said.

Among the projects at risk are expansion of Coal Creek Parkway and Novelty Hill Road on the Eastside, and an improved intersection of Benson Road and Carr Road near Renton.

“We all need to sit back and go back to the drawing table and figure out where our construction projects are,” Call said. “This has put a huge hole in the region’s ability to address transportation needs.”

While officials haven’t precisely calculated the impact of several voter-approved tax cuts, County Council budget analyst Rebecha Cusack said the road-construction fund might be reduced by 20 percent over the next six years.

The County Council’s budget chairman, Larry Phillips, D-Seattle, said the county’s ability to improve roads fund will be “devastated” by I-776 and by Initiative 747, which caps the growth in property taxes to 1 percent a year.

While elected leaders across jurisdictions have tried gamely to backfill budget holes caused by destructive Eyman initiatives like I-695, I-747, and I-776, they have not been able to restore funding levels to a sufficient level for all services. That has resulted in facility closures, deferred maintenance, and failure to replace aging structures.

Arguably no public service has been harder hit than rural roads.

While cities like Seattle have secured voter approval for transportation levies like Bridging the Gap and Move Seattle, small unincorporated communities have been left bereft of needed investments. Many of these communities are represented by Republicans who are reluctant or unwilling to speak out publicly against Eyman’s bad ideas (and the harm caused by his past initiatives) for fear of retribution by Eyman’s small but vocal band of right wing activists, which includes many Republican PCOs.

Not content with the damage he has already caused, Eyman has proposed Initiative 976, which would repeal funding for Amtrak Cascades, freight mobility, Sound Transit 3 system expansion, King County Metro service hours, and yes, road maintenance and street repairs in sixty cities. Eyman makes it sound in his talking points like he’s only targeting Sound Transit, but that’s a lie. Rural roads are once again going to take a hit if Eyman’s Initiative 976 isn’t defeated this November.

To learn more and join the coalition fighting Eyman’s latest awful initiative, visit no976.org.

Tim Eyman’s tax increase figures don’t belong in anyone’s reporting

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

This morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email which claims that the Washington State Legislature has “recently imposed $24 billion in higher taxes”.

Don’t be fooled: These and other figures Eyman included in his email are misleading numbers that do not belong in anyone’s reporting.

The statistics Eyman sent are derived from the ten year projections that a Tim Eyman written law requires the Office of Financial Management to produce.

When Eyman says the numbers came from OFM, what he’s not telling you is that OFM only publishes these ten year revenue projections because they’re required to by self-serving language that Tim Eyman repeatedly put in his initiatives.

Here’s the provision that requires them (RCW 43.135.031):

For any bill introduced in either the house of representatives or the senate that raises taxes as defined by RCW 43.135.034 or increases fees, the office of financial management must expeditiously determine its cost to the taxpayers in its first ten years of imposition, must promptly and without delay report the results of its analysis by public press release via email to each member of the house of representatives, each member of the senate, the news media, and the public, and must post and maintain these releases on its web site. Any ten-year cost projection must include a year-by-year breakdown. For any bill containing more than one revenue source, a ten-year cost projection for each revenue source will be included along with the bill’s total ten-year cost projection. The press release shall include the names of the legislators, and their contact information, who are sponsors and cosponsors of the bill so they can provide information to, and answer questions from, the public.

And here is the page OFM maintains in compliance with that RCW.

According to OFM, there were three hundred and eight bills passed in the 2018 session. Just seventeen were classified as tax or fee bills. See OFM’s session summary page.

Eyman simply loves ten year projections because they have lots of zeroes in them. They’re big numbers. Take Eyman’s number for 2018… $13,384,000. That is the amount of revenue that Senate Bill 6269 (see text) was projected to generate over a ten year time period. In 2018, the amount of revenue generated was only $280,000. For 2019, the oil spill response tax authorized by Senate Bill 6269 is forecast to generate $1.37 million.

Anyone can play the game Eyman is playing here. It’s easy. Any amount sounds more impressive when you take it out over ten years.

For example, how much money will you make in the next ten years? Probably a lot more than you’ll make this year or the next two years. How much will your retirement account grow over the next ten years? Probably a lot more than the next one or two years (unless something really bad happens to the markets over the long term).

Budgets, however, are written for one or two years as opposed to ten years. Taxes are collected at the time of sale, or monthly, or quarterly, or annually, or bi-annually… not in ten year increments. Attempting to look ahead ten years (or further) can be useful as a planning or thought exercise, but that is not what Eyman is doing here. Instead, he is trying to deceive the public and press with misleading statistics.

Eyman has no interest in sound governance or long range planning. His objective has always been to wreck government so it can’t work the way it’s supposed to. He is a destroyer, not a builder.

There has never been a Tim Eyman initiative to address homelessness, clean up Puget Sound, spur economic development development in rural communities, or anything else worth doing to improve our state… and there probably never will be, because Tim Eyman is just not interested in strengthening our communities.

Eyman ascribes to the philosophy of Grover Norquist, who told NPR in 2001: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”


From Tim Eyman’s email this morning:

In early 2013, the state supreme court reversed 20 years of judicial precedent and overturned the voters repeated decision to require the Legislature to pass another tax increase with a 2/3 vote.

What’s happened since then?

  • In 2013, they did 5 tax increases costing us $ 877,500,000.
  • In 2014, they did 2 tax increases costing us $ 26,201,000.
  • In 2015, they did 4 tax increases costing us $ 5,173,000,000.
  • In 2016, they did 2 tax increases costing us $ 2,000,000.
  • In 2017, they did 3 tax increases costing us $17,600,000,000.
  • In 2018, they did 1 tax increase costing us $ 13,384,000.

So WITHOUT the 2/3 rule, those 6 legislative sessions cost the taxpayers $23.692 billion (as calculated by OFM, the state’s budget office).

One final note: the State Supreme Court did not break with precedent when it struck down Eyman’s two-thirds scheme for revenue in 2013. Quite the opposite… the Court’s decision was entirely in keeping with its prior rulings, like the Gerberding decision. The Washington State Constitution is clear: bills pass the House and Senate by majority vote. Majority means greater than fifty percent: no more, and no less.

A supermajority is not a majority, just as a submajority is not a majority, because in either case, the outcome is in the hands of a few as opposed to the many.

Our Founders understood this, and that’s why they created Article II, Section 22.

RE: Ensuring “balanced and fair” media coverage of Tim Eyman’s I-976

From the Campaign TrailRethinking and Reframing

This morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email grumbling about a story that KING5 ran on its website yesterday regarding the fiscal impact that his latest freedom of mobility destroying initiative would have on Sound Transit’s voter approved projects. Although the story was accompanied by a clip of an earlier KING5 segment that extensively featured Eyman and framed the issue in his favor, Eyman nevertheless cried foul.

Wrote Eyman: “Someone forwarded me a KING5 story after-the-fact about Sound Transit putting out something on our Initiative I-976. The story had nothing from the other side. That’s unfortunate. In the interests of balance and fairness, I would ask folks in the media to please call me and email me and allow me opportunity to respond.”

Actually, what’s truly unfortunate is that a not insignificant percentage of the coverage of I-976’s final signature turn in and qualification has lacked any opposition perspective at all, resulting in extremely favorable, one-sided stories benefiting Tim Eyman.

For example, this article, which appeared on the websites of many local newspapers around the state (Lake Chelan Mirror, Lewis County Chronicle, South Whidbey Record, Sequim Gazette, etc.) did not offer any opposition perspective or analysis of the impacts of I-976 whatsoever:

‘Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs’ Initiative Could Be on November Ballot

By Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

“Bring Back Our $30 Car Tabs,” an initiative that would limit annual motor-vehicle registration fees to $30 except for voter-approved charges, was sent to the Legislature for consideration by the Secretary of State.

Initiative 976 received enough signatures to potentially make it to the November 2019 ballot. The initiative can take three different pathways by either being approved as is by Legislators, by Legislators passing on the initiative and it being voted on by the public, or by Legislators passing an alternative, in which case voters would choose between the two versions in November.

I- 976 also would repeal, reduce, or remove the ability to impose a variety of vehicle taxes and fees except for those that are voter approved. It would also require the use of Kelley Blue Book values as a basis for vehicle taxes.

Tim Eyman is the lobbyist behind the initiative, who has been proposing and passing a variety of initiatives since 1999 with Initiative 695: Washington Voter Approval for Tax Increases. I 695 limited license tab fees to $30 and was overturned by the Washington Supreme Court in 2000 because it was not limited to one subject, a requirement of all initiatives.

Eyman wants I- 976 to pass “so that every vehicle owner in the state of Washington would write a check for 30 dollars each year to register their vehicle and cap it so that state government can’t jack it up and local government can’t jack it up,” he said.

According to Eyman, 61 cities in Washington have imposed vehicle fees.

Eyman has proposed a host of bills that all get at one issue. “Big picture, it’s less about the money and more about respecting the decisions voters make,” said Eyman.

Meanwhile, Tim Eyman’s friends on talk radio (like Dori Monson and John Carlson), have neglected to seek out an opposition perspective, even after having Eyman as their on-air guest many times to promote his initiative.

Monson and Carlson may be commentators as opposed to reporters striving for objectivity, but why not afford their listeners an opportunity to hear the case against Eyman’s proposal?

The public will never hear an accounting of the impacts from Eyman because his position is that there just wouldn’t be any.

Eyman’s “Chicken Little” sneers notwithstanding, I-976 would wipe out billions in funding for transportation projects at every level (state, regional, and local). All Washingtonians would be negatively affected.

Our one page, downloadable fact sheet summarizes the many essential services that would take a hit with implementation of I-976.

The team at the Northwest Progressive Institute and the NO on I-976 Coalition (which includes a growing list of organizations like All Aboard Washington, The Urbanist, and 350 Seattle) greatly appreciates all the reporters and media outlets who have tried to incorporate the perspectives of both sides into their reporting instead of just Eyman’s side… like Drew Mikkelsen and Kipp Robertson of KING5.

For Washingtonians to cast an informed vote on I-976 in the coming general election, they need to hear more than just Tim Eyman’s deceptive slogans and talking points.

It is absolutely essential that everyone understand that Eyman’s intent with I-976 is to wipe out funding for transit, local roads, ferries, freight mobility, and multimodal infrastructure… not save drivers money.

Consider that Eyman could have chosen to target tolls or fuel taxes with his latest initiative, which many drivers pay every week or even every weekday. He didn’t. Instead, he’s focused on vehicle fees. Why? Because vehicle fees are a major revenue source for non-highway transportation projects in Washington… projects Eyman (a zealous “road warrior”) doesn’t believe in since they don’t give him more pavement to drive his car on.

Then consider Eyman has been trying to qualify I-976 for three years running now. Sound Transit is, by Eyman’s own admission, his white whale. He’s obsessed with its destruction.

He’s openly admitted this when speaking in front of friendly audiences. For instance, in a March 1st, 2016 appearance before the Eastside Republican Club in Bellevue, Eyman said:

“I love the idea of every voter in the state being able to register their vehicle for a flat-rate, easy to understand $30, but what gets me giddy is the idea of ripping the heart out of Sound Transit. This agency is so unaccountable, so rogue, so completely devoid of any reality that this is our one chance to be able to gut them like a pig, and that’s what I really love about this initiative.”

Emphasis is ours.

Eyman was unable to qualify an initiative in 2016 or 2017 to rip the heart of Sound Transit, but he didn’t stop trying.

With I-976 destined for the November ballot, it’s imperative that we have a substantive conversation about the impacts so everyone understands how our communities will lose if this measure is implemented. We encourage reporters, editors, and producers to study the measure carefully and ensure that audiences are aware of the damage I-976 will inflict in places that are far away from Sound Transit’s jurisdiction, especially communities in central, eastern, and southwest Washington.

You are here:

View our I-976 Impact Map

Permanent Defense has created a tool for visualizing projects and services that could be lost if Tim Eyman’s I-976  is implemented. Take a look:

NO on I-976 Impact Map

We’ve also published a guide to the map which you can read here.

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Permanent Defense works to protect Washington by building a first line of defense against threats to the common wealth and Constitution of the Evergreen State — like Tim Eyman's initiative factory. Learn more.

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