Tag Archives: I-747

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  • Initiative 776 (passed in 2002, partially upheld in 2003): Repealed the local motor vehicle excise tax collected by King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Douglas counties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.

Larry Haler’s House Bill 2255 lives on as an initiative to the people

Legislation & TestimonyRethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

In response to Republican State Representative Larry Haler’s disappointing decision to withdraw House Bill 2255, legislation that sought to replace Tim Eyman’s I-747 with a more sensible property tax policy, NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve today introduced the bill as an initiative to the people to ensure that the proposal will live on and be easily accessible for public discussion and comment.

“We wish Larry Haler had stood behind his bill,” said Villeneuve. “Since he’s chosen to pull it and neither of his Democratic cosponsors wanted to take it over, it’s been erased from the Legislature’s website – as if it never existed. To ensure that it remains accessible, NPI has transformed it into an initiative to the people. The only change we’ve made is to add an intent section. Otherwise, we’ve left the bill as it was.”

Anyone doing a bill-specific search for HB 2255 now sees an error when putting in that number, due to the bill having been withdrawn. A broader search of the Legislature’s website will turn up information pertaining to bills with the same number from other years. The bill’s text stayed up leg.wa.gov for a while longer, but now it’s gone, too.

This morning, Tim Eyman sent out an email to his followers and the media crowing about the bill’s demise and taking credit for having intimidated Haler into withdrawing the bill. Eyman, of course, stands to benefit if Washington State’s tax code remains broken and regressive: it ensures that there will be grist for future initiatives from his mill.

But what’s good for Tim Eyman isn’t good for Washington State.

“We are long overdue for meaningful action to fix our broken tax code,” Villeneuve said. “If Republicans who are in a position of responsibility wish to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, then they need to declare their independence from Tim Eyman and demonstrate a willingness to work with Democrats on reform.”

“We were encouraged when Larry Haler introduced HB 2255, and just as equally disappointed when he folded under pressure and pulled it. He could have set a good example for his party and done the people of Washington an important service by standing up to Tim Eyman. Eyman may not want to admit it, but Washington’s essential public services – from schools to mental health services to parks to ferries – are woefully underfunded and reliant on the nation’s most regressive tax system for the little money they are getting.”

“How many more times is the Legislature going to take the lowest road and pass a budget that relies on accounting gimmicks, fund transfers, and other trickery to paper over the worsening structural problems we’ve got?” Villeneuve asked.

“And for how much longer are county and city leaders supposed to scrape by under I-747, the Death-By-A-Thousand-Cuts Initiative? Washington’s public services are one of its greatest assets, and we should be protecting and strengthening them… not allowing them to waste away under an ill-conceived Tim Eyman initiative.”

The transformed text of House Bill 2255 is available from the Secretary of State’s website. The just-filed initiative will eventually receive a ballot number, title, and summary, once the text is finalized.

Special session coverage

Legislation & Testimony

Permanent Defense’s parent organization, the Northwest Progressive Institute, has coverage of today’s special session at the Official Blog.

Please view the following posts for more information:

(Last Updated December 3rd, 2007)

Statement on the invalidation of Initiative 747

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

The Northwest Progressive Institute and Permanent Defense this morning applauded the State Supreme Court’s invalidation of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747, which placed draconian limits on property taxes in 2001. The Court upheld a lower court decision which found the initiative unconstitutional.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the people of the State of Washington,” said NPI Executive Director Andrew Villeneuve. “Neither the Legislature nor initiative sponsors have the right to mislead voters with inaccurately drafted law. The Supreme Court has affirmed once again that Tim Eyman’s habit of cutting corners with poorly conceived language is not acceptable.”

“Our state’s Constitution is a meaningless document unless its protections are enforced,” Villeneuve added. “No statute may violate the Constitution for any reason. Those who sponsor initiatives for a living are bound to abide by the same rules that the Legislature must follow. Citizen lawmaking, like the privilege of serving in the Legislature, carries with it huge responsibility.”

PREVIOUS EYMAN INITIATIVES DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL:

  • I-695 (1999): Slashing vehicle fees
  • I-722 (2000): Slashing property taxes

EYMAN’S RECORD — FULL OF FAILURES

Besides the court invalidations of I-695 and I-722, Tim Eyman’s record is full of defeats:

  • I-745 (2000): Tried to redirect transportation funding to roads, defeated by voters
  • I-776 (2002): Failed to stop Sound Transit’s light rail project or eliminate bonds (the main intent)
  • I-267 (2002): Tried to redirect transportation funding to roads, never qualified for the ballot
  • I-807 (2003): Initiative 960’s more recent predecessor never qualified for the ballot
  • I-864 (2004): Tried to slash property taxes, never qualified for the ballot
  • I-892 (2004): Tried to expand gambling, defeated by voters
  • I-900 (2005): Gave the state auditor too much power to conduct performance audits. Approved.
  • I-917 (2006): Tried to slash vehicle fees, never qualified for the ballot
  • R-65 (2006): Tried to legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, never qualified for the ballot

For more information, check out the complete Failure Chart.

Statement on the Initiative 747 ruling by Judge Roberts

In the CourtsStatements & Advisories

Permanent Defense today applauded the decision of King County Superior Court Judge Mary Roberts, who ruled that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 was unconstitutional.

“It’s a very simple concept: Washington State laws, including initiatives passed by voters, cannot violate the state Constitution,” said Permanent Defense Chair Andrew Villeneuve. “We agree with the judge and believe her reasoning in this case is sound.”

“What’s more, Initiative 747 has already caused significant damage to communities throughout Washington State,” Villeneuve added. “Police and fire departments, libraries, parks, pools, and other public services have been badly hurt by I-747.”

“Not only are Tim Eyman’s initiatives bad for public services and bad for our communities, but they are poorly written and out of compliance with our state’s constitution.”

According to the Department of Revenue, the loss to the state property tax totals $226,923,000 for the 2005-2007 biennium while losses to local taxing districts total $571,496,000. That’s $571 million dollars – an enormous sum of money. The loss to local governments in 2006 alone is some $285 million dollars (PDF).

Incidentally, there are several conflicts of interest in this court case: Attorney General Rob McKenna, who has (so far) unsuccessfully defended I-747 for the state, was a coauthor of the initiative. The other initiative coauthor is Jim Johnson. Johnson currently sits on the state Supreme Court, which may hear this case on appeal.

Permanent Defense will be calling for Johnson to recuse himself from the case if the state Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal.

Whitman County, nonprofits sue to invalidate Initiative 747

In the Courts

Good news from the Puget Sound Business Journal:

Whitman County and a coalition of nonprofit groups are suing the state, arguing that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747, which capped state and local property tax increase at 1 percent per year, is unconstitutional.

At a hearing in King County Superior Court on Friday, June 2, the plaintiffs will argue that I-747 didn’t accurately describe the law it would amend and that the initiative’s ballot title didn’t accurately describe its subject. The group said similar arguments were used to invalidate Initiative 695, another Eyman initiative aimed at reducing car-tab taxes to $30.

The lawsuit is brought by Whitman County and several nonprofits, including Washington Citizen Action, the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition, and Futurewise, the group formerly known as 1,000 Friends of Washington.

I-747 created a funding crisis for local and state governments, the group said.

“Initiative 747 has taken a dramatic toll on small county governments like those east of the mountains,” said Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch. “Under this initiative, our revenue simply cannot keep up with inflation and we are being forced to cut critical services.”

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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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