Washington: Voter Initiative Thwarts Transportation Tax Hikes

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
washington voter initiative thwarts transportation tax hikes

Washington state’s attorney general confirmed Monday that the legislature may no longer pass authority to raise transportation tolls and fees to an unelected commission. In November, 64 percent of voters approved Initiative 1053 which stated that taxes must be approved by the vote of a majority in the state House and Senate.

The voter-approved measure is now being used to block the state Transportation Commission from approving an increase in fares for the Washington state ferries. The legislature turned to the commission to make the unpopular move of hiking road and bridge tolls as well as the charges for use of the ferry. According to the attorney general’s office, the voting public rejected this approach.

“The initiative accordingly rendered legislative approval granted before the enactment of I-1053 insufficient to authorize the increase or imposition of a fee,” Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey T. Even wrote. “In a manner of speaking, I-1053 hit the ‘reset’ button on legislative approval of the imposition or increase of fees, limiting such actions to those approved anew by the legislature after the effective date of the measure.”

State Senator Pam Roach (R-Auburn) had asked for the ruling to clarify that the initiative had the full force of law on the questions of tolls and ferry hikes.

“Years ago, legislators figured they could avoid the potential wrath of voters if they could just find a way to blame someone else,” Roach wrote in an email. “And they did. The legislature voted to give away its authority, and with it their responsibility and accountability, to the Transportation Commission, which has been working outside of the ‘accountability zone’ for decades. It is wrong to have such a powerful body of unelected individuals making such impactful decisions.”

Initiative guru Tim Eyman, wrote the referendum to block the legislature from undoing the effects of I-1053 and similar measures to limit the ways in which the legislature could increase taxes.

“We’re obviously pleased that the voters will get the policies they voted for,” initiative sponsor Tim Eyman wrote in an email. “We firmly believe that bills that increase ferry fares or impose tolls must be accompanied by reforms and taxpayer protections — they don’t deserve a blank check.”

State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island) has vowed to overturn the initiative, a move both Eyman and Roach believe to be an uphill battle.

A copy of the informal ruling is available in a 1mb PDF file at the source link below.

Can the Transportation Commission raise taxes, fees or tolls (Office of the Attorney General, 12/20/2010)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

Join the conversation
2 of 11 comments
  • Zackman Zackman on Dec 22, 2010

    Does anyone on here remember the phrase on U.S.-manufactured goods up to about 1972 or so: "Prices slightly higher in the west and south?" That was because most of the stuff we bought was built in what became known as the "Rust belt", the northeast U.S! You actually had to pay more the farther away you lived because they had to ship it farther, and, guess what? it COST MORE to ship it and those who lived nearer to where goods were made weren't penalized in order to subsidize those who didn't. Novel thought, that! Food for thought, eh?

  • ExPatBrit ExPatBrit on Dec 22, 2010

    There have been a couple of well publicized problems and scams with the Ferry system here in WA involving employees pocketing the fares. Several programs on the TV and articles in the local newspaper. Management continues to be lacking. However not being able to adjust fares will reduce service and the first two big political complainers were republicans. They are the type of people than tend to live out in the boonies. For all the whining from the right, the blue part of the state subsidizes a lot of those rugged individualists who live in the red part of the state. I say let them have what they want, how about I not pay for your ferries, your roads, your airports , your law enforcement, your libraries and your schools? And don't complain it's a libertarian paradise after all.

  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!