Eastside residents want state transportation action

Republicans are opposed to diving into anything that would require a gas tax hike.
Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known.

Sonja Rassman of Bellevue makes her support for Metro known. Credit: John Stang

Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee. Credit: John Stang

The King County crowd wanted to build and fix lots of highways and bridges as fast as possible.

The crowd at an Eastside gathering argued for the state Legislature to pass a package of transportation projects in November. It wanted Interstate 405 drastically upgraded. And it called for the Legislature to give King County the authority to pass a fee to keep the Metro bus system running at its present level.

Those were the major thrusts in what members of the public, county business interests and local governments told members of the Senate Transportation Committee and King County legislators — about a dozen in all — Tuesday in Bellevue. This was the first of nine feedback sessions for the transportation committee as it ponders what could and should be done if Gov. Jay Inslee calls for a special session in November on reviving a stalled transportation revenue package.

At least 300 people showed up. Seventy-four spoke before time ran out. The next session is at 6 p.m. today at 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett. (The entire schedule of feedback sessions is here.)

Getting a new transportation package passed this year was clearly the top priority , shared by numerous local governments and business interests.

 "We must work together, and we must act now," said King County Executive Dow Constantine." Seattle traffic has become infamous, even on the East Coast, said Microsoft recruiter Kathryn Neal.

"I spend a lot of time just sitting in traffic,” said South King County resident Monica Whitman. No one in the crowd called for delaying action on a transportation package to beyond this November.

I-405's constant traffic jams frustrated a huge chunk of the crowd.  "Our community faces the worst traffic congestion in the state,” said Bellevue City Councilmember John Stokes. Dick Paylor of Bothell's Chamber of Commerce and of the East King County Chambers' Legislative Coalition, said, I-405 "is an economic artery, and I hope you pass a gas tax before it has an economic heart attack," said .

Also, many in the crowd wanted King County to have the legal ability to levy its own fees as a way to raise revenue and avoid a projected 17 percent cut in Metro transit service in 2014. That measure went down with the Democrats' transportation proposal that died in June. A petition with 1,000 signatures calling for that legal capability was presented to Senate Majority Coalition Caucus Leader Rodney Tom, D- Medina, at Tuesday's session.

King County Councilmember Larry Phillips said if Metro buses are cut, that will translate to more cars on roads and more congestion. "There is no area in King County that would be spared,” said Kim Allen, Redmond City Council member.

The Legislature's biggest deadlock on a transportation package has been whether to increase the state's gas tax to pay for most of the work. On Tuesday, six people specifically called for a gas tax hike, while one specifically opposed such an increase. "More gas taxes kill me. ... I don't appreciate all the scare tactics,” said Kerry Hooks of Pierce County.

However, the majority of the crowd supported a transportation package full of projects to be passed later this year — a scenario possible only with a gas tax hike, which only the Legislature's Democrats want.

Senate and House Republicans and Democrats are split almost totally along party lines in supporting two drastically different approaches. In June, the Democratic-controlled House passed a transportation package with a 10.5 cents per gallon increase in the gas tax in June. The 23-Republican-two-Democrat Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, with a 25-24 majority, decided to kill that package by refusing to consider it.

Even some normally tax-averse business interests supported the Democrats' transportation package because of its job-creation potential. But the majority coalition has consistently stuck to a strict no-new-taxes stance on all legislative matters.

Later in the summer, the majority coalition unveiled its own proposed transportation package that called for raising $800 million with budget shifts, little in the way of new construction and several administrative reforms. Any discussion of raising gas taxes might wait until 2015 or 2016. The majority coalition's proposal lacked several projects that the Democratic plan wanted to fund immediately, such as extending State Route 167 to the Port of Tacoma, extending State Route 509 in King and Pierce counties and widening State Route 12 in Eastern Washington. 


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Sep 18, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

"King County Councilmember Larry Phillips said if Metro buses are cut, that will translate to more cars on roads and more congestion. "

This is total b.s. They cut buses in Pierce County and Snohomish County and it did not have any effect on traffic congestion whatsoever.

With any competence at all, Metro would cut far less than 17% of bus service, and the cuts they would make would be on little-used routes (of which there are many) and during off-peak hours when there is no traffic congestion anyway. This would have no effect on traffic congestion in King County at all.

What Larry Philips and Cow Donstantine are scared stiff about is that Metro will make some cuts and nobody will even notice.

Do NOT raise taxes to give even more-massive tax subsidies to bus riders. Bus riders pay only around 30% of the operating cost of their bus trips now. RAISE FARES if bus riders are so worried about a little bit of service cuts. As a motorist and taxpayer, I am not worried in the slightest about any Metro service cuts. Won't impact me in any way whatsoever.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Sep 19, 8:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh, lordy.
I attended the Everett meeting last night, and had a report from a staffer on the Bellevue meeting.

One would imagine everyone is on board. That would include all the politicians, mayors, transit board members and others, who were numerous, and got called on first.

The common sheeples had to wait over two hours to testify. They were NOT in favor of it. My comments included "don't shoot me, but Tim Eyman is right". He said "let the people decide".

If this plan is so whiz-bang, how about putting it out there in detail, and selling it (should be easy, right?) to the voters.

Lots of discussion about jobs, etc, but this is a TRANSPORTATION issue, not a jobs issue. Make good decision on projects to fund, if you can, as everyone has their favorites, then tell us why it is good for us.

Oh, yeah, and the last one I analyzed gave 40+ percent to transit, HOV (same as transit, don't be fooled) and mosquito breeding ponds. Don't do that again, tell the truth.

The Geezer, as ususal, has spaketh.

Geezer

Posted Thu, Sep 19, 1:15 p.m. Inappropriate

from: tim eyman
to: geezer (and everyone else)

good seeing you last night. shoot me an email (tim_eyman@comcast.net). for those interested, here was my report to our supporters on last night's event:

Wearing jeans and a bright red longsleeve t-shirt emblazoned with "LET THE VOTERS DECIDE" on the front, I went to Everett last night to participate in the "listening tour" on higher transportation taxes (EVERETT HERALD, Thursday, September 19, 'Listening tour' comes to Everett http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130919/NEWS01/709199897/Public-officials-others-voice-support-for-state-road-work). Probably 200 people were in the audience and a panel of about 10 state senators and representatives. It started with nearly 45 minutes of lecturing from state transportation officials about how they want/need more money.

When they finally got around to "citizen" testimony, person after person talked for 2 minutes each. After about 12 people, I got my chance:

"My name is Tim Eyman and I'm from Mukilteo.

"The people attending these meetings, including myself, are not a representative sample of the taxpayers of Washington. Normal human beings are not in this room. (smattering of gasps, hisses, and boos).

"Normal people are at home recovering from a long day at work. But their voices need to be heard too. Everyone deserves a voice and a choice in this process. And that can only happen by putting any big tax package on the ballot and let the voters decide.

"Wanting more money does not justify taking it. Needing more money does not sanction unilaterally raising taxes.

"Let the voters decide.

"Last November, 1.9 million voters approved Initiative 1185 which requires two-thirds legislative approval or voter approval to raise taxes. It got more votes than any initiative in state history, passing in every legislative district outside Seattle.

"Voters deserve the protections they voted for.

"The voters elected a governor who promised to veto any tax increase, ensuring voter approval for tax increases.

"Voters deserve the policies they were promised.

"Voters elected a governor who promised no transportation taxes in 2013.

"The Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate has stood firm so far keeping faith with the voters and holding the governor to his campaign promises. The people's initiative and referendum process is waiting if that changes.

"Since 1999, for nearly 14 years, the voters have repeatedly sent the message at the ballot box that on any big tax increase: let the voters decide.

"There's no decision that government makes that has a greater impact on taxpayers' lives than the ability to take more of the people's money.

"And there's no better way to establish trust with the people then by asking their permission before taking their money.

"Also, elections provide information.

"And most importantly, reform will happen if voter approval is required because the tax package won't pass without reform.

"Thank you."

-- END --

I stayed for another hour to listen. Those testifying before and after me proved my point: almost all of them wanted higher taxes because they were going to be the ones getting the money. There were a handful of regular citizens, but they were completely outnumbered by state, county, and city officials, contractors, union members, etc.

There's certainly no harm in having this listening tour (although last night was more of a talking tour for politicians), but it's important to state the obvious: the special interest groups that will receive the money are dominating the discussion at these forums. Regular taxpayers need to repeatedly remind legislators that letting the voters decide is the only way to ensure that the taxpayers' voices are heard.

timeyman

Posted Thu, Sep 19, 7:35 p.m. Inappropriate

This is rich. Let's see - what conglomerate is paying you hourly consultant rate these days? Get a real job already gadfly and leave us "regular" people alone.

Treker

Posted Thu, Sep 19, 9:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Typical "progressive." When faced with actual arguments, what does a Seattle "progressive" do? Launch a personal attack. You know, just like the evil Republicans. Treker, you and your fellow "progressives" are the spittin' image of your kissin' cousin, Sarah Palin. You are deathly afraid of independent citizens. They scare the living hell out of you.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Sep 20, 7:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Independent citizen!! LOL! Oh, that's a good one. How about corporate shill willing to work for any corporate entity that puts money on the table. Gotta admit though, he's a crafty one who has figured out a way to make a living out of it. Beats being a college watch salesman. I bet Timmy thinks so too. LOL

Treker

Posted Thu, Sep 19, 10:01 p.m. Inappropriate

Sounds like a Potemkin meeting, covered by a Potemkin "journalist" with an ax to grind. Congrats, Crosscut. You've made medical history as an infant with hardened arteries.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Sep 21, 5:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Can you say "conflict of interest", or doesn't that apply when government lobbies itself for more money? Wouldn't this be classified as bullying?

Let the voters decide.

salmonjim

Posted Sun, Sep 22, 11:43 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow, all the politicians come looking for handouts - instead of doing what they are elected to do - resolve problems.

Wouldn't it have been nice to hear those from Bothell say they had a solution - they would finally extend 39th to connect it so it goes directly to Woodinville!

How about Redmond and Kirkland saying they would extend Willows road to Connect it to Woodinville

How about Sammamish and Issaquah, and North Bend, and everyone east saying they would start requiring builders to set aside property so we can start to plan Thoroughfares east of the lake for long term planning for other parallel roads.

Wait - maybe if the State proposed a Tax increase to propose the planning of an I-205, or I-605 that takes traffic from noth of Arlington, east of the eastside, and south down to SR18 - then this voter could get behind it.

The answer is not to widen I-405. Forget it - you have been doing that for the 31 years that I have lived in this area - and it has never been improved!

Legislature - pass a law that says for every x number of cars a community adds to an interstate, they must put x number onto parallel roads. And, for every x number of dollars spent on highway expansion, x number of dollars must be spent on land acquisition for alternative routes.

WOW - elected officials - take note - this could lead to actual planning by real leadership. Not whining by elected zombies we don't need in office.

rights

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