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Washington State: Politicians’ Predictably Petty Response to Passage of I-976

Brett Davis

Posted on November 12, 2019 20:00

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The conceit of the elite rears its ugly head after voters send a wake-up call to the Legislature – and Sound Transit.

With the apparent passage of Initiative 976, which would return $30 car tabs to Washington state drivers, politicians indicated they received the message loud and clear and would immediately prioritize spending to be more efficient with taxpayer money. Just kidding. Elected officials (read: Democrats that dominate state government) threw a hissy fit in response to the will of the voters, acting as if the entire state budget is funded via car tabs.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal encouraged revenge against voters who dared cast a ballot in favor of I-976:


Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement at least acknowledging the will of the voters, but with a backhanded compliment. “It is clear that the majority of voters objected to the current car tab levels,” the statement read, in part. “It is also clear that this vote means there will be adverse impacts on our state transportation system.”

Those adverse impacts are a reference to the fact I-976 will cause state and local governments to lose a total of about $4.2 billion in revenue for transportation and transit projects over the next six years, according to the Office of Financial Management.

Of course, this is not the first go-round in Washington state as far as car tab-lowering initiatives go, and the disastrous consequences predicted by opponents failed to materialize then, and that is likely to be the case now.

Naturally, the powers-that-be in Olympia and elsewhere are loath to give up any taxpayer money. Hence scaremongering tactics that include rumblings about local transportation projects mostly funded by the gas tax – not car tabs – being put on hold or cancelled, and the fishy notion of $30 car tabs resulting in dead killer whales.

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced he was asking the county prosecutor to prepare a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of I-976. Likewise, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she planned a lawsuit to block the initiative.

Lawmakers, local politicians and officials with Sound Transit – the public transit agency serving the Seattle metropolitan area – are ignoring the fact they might have avoided this outcome if they had done more to address the cost of car-tab fees in recent years. In 2016, voters approved Sound Transit 3, a measure to expand the regional public transit system, including raising car tabs to fund the project. However, many people saw their annual car tab renewal costs skyrocket into hundreds of dollars.

Why? Because Sound Transit essentially lied to voters to get funding by using an outdated vehicle depreciation schedule to calculate annual registration fees. That formula overestimated a vehicle’s value in its first 10 years, leading to higher fees than one might expect, based on a vehicle’s actual market value.

As it turns out, mismanagement and deceit don’t sit well with voters, and they struck back on Nov. 5 by approving I-976. The response by government officials is not encouraging.

 

 

Brett Davis

Posted on November 12, 2019 20:00

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