6/7/2016Washington: Signature Drive On New Pro-Car Ballot Measure
Proposed Washington state ballot measure would ban high occupancy toll lane projects, per-mile taxes and lower registration fees back to $30.
Washington state's master of the ballot initiative is back looking for signatures in support of a plan that would rein in costs imposed on motorists. Tim Eyman announced last week that the new Initiative 869 would, if it gathers enough support, restore $30 car registration fees (also known as car tabs) and roll back tolls that were imposed on existing lanes of Interstate 405 and Highway 167.
"They're charging people to drive on a road that they already paid for with the gas tax," Eyman told TheNewspaper. "It's double-dipping. It's essentially trying to tax poor people off the roads."
The toll projects have been expensive and controversial. Earlier in the year, a report by Inrix showed that the I-405 high-occupancy toll lanes increased congestion (view report). The ballot proposal also would prohibit the state from turning its per-mile driving tax pilot project into a mandatory statewide program.
The measure is in other respects largely similar to Initiative 1421, which was introduced in February, only to go on hold as the state Supreme Court challenged Eyman's more general, voter-passed anti-tax initiative. Eyman's latest initiative is modeled on the "$30 car tab" Initiative 776 that survived judicial scrutiny more than a decade ago. In the years since the state Supreme Court upheld the measure's legality, new taxes and fees have been imposed.
"There is a war on cars and it's time for the people to fight back," Eyman wrote in an email to supporters. "Vehicle owners already pay a huge sales tax when they buy a vehicle and a huge gas tax when they use a vehicle. It's simply not fair to be triple- and quadruple-taxed for our vehicles."
In addition to striking down a series of taxes and fees on vehicles imposed by state and local governments, the new "We love our cars" ballot measure also takes aim at a number of taxes levied in the greater Seattle area by Sound Transit, a regional authority.
"We're gonna show the politicians that these taxes, fees, tolls, and other charges do not have the consent of the governed," Eyman wrote.
Eyman is confident of success since the public has consistently voted in favor of these ideas. In 1999, 56 percent of voters approved $30 state car tabs with Initiative 695. A special interest court challenge ultimately blocked the measure, and the registration fees slowly climbed back to their present level. A poll conducted in late April by Rasmussen Reports found 63 percent of likely voters supported the return to a $30 annual car registration fee outlined in the new proposal.
Eyman has until December to collect the needed 300,000 signatures.