Toll Plaza (wikipedia)

Five new Tim Eyman initiatives were filed with the state this month, including one (PDF) which would drastically limit the uses of toll revenue and the way tolls are imposed.

Section 40 (commonly referred to as the 18th Amendment) of the Washington State Constitution has limited the use of fuel excise taxes to highway construction, operation and maintenance since 1944. Eyman’s initiative would limit toll revenue to the same purposes – in fact, even more stringently, to only construction and capital improvements of the highway, bridge, or street on which the toll is collected.

It would also remove the state’s ability to impose variable tolls, and require that tolling end once construction of a structure is paid off – today’s law allows tolling to continue for operations and maintenance, as well as performance management. This would eliminate congestion pricing, HOT lanes, and even simply higher rush-hour tolls.

A final section specifically changes language regarding tolling on Interstate 90. Current law directs WSDOT to work with the federal highway administration toward authorization of tolling on the I-90 bridge – revenue expected to help fund 520 bridge replacement, and to prevent I-90 from becoming even more of a parking lot when 520 is tolled this year. The initiative would specifically (and perhaps redundantly) restrict I-90 toll revenue to capital improvements on I-90.

It’s worth mentioning that this final section could amount to nothing but a shell game – I speculate that toll revenue on I-90 could, with legislative action, replace gas tax revenue used for projects elsewhere in the corridor, and an equivalent in gas taxes could be moved to 520.

With a transportation package on the table in Olympia this session or next, the rest of the initiative could have major implications. Tolling has been increasingly under consideration as an option for congestion reduction, and as a potential revenue source for transit improvements. Without it, the options for transit in the legislature would look even more slim than they already do.

54 Replies to “Eyman Goes After Toll Revenue”

  1. Fine: Use tolling to maintain existing lanes and only add HOV lanes and HOV on ramps. NO NEW GENERAL PURPOSE LANES. While not perfect, there are certainly a lot of potential HOV projects out there to be funded with Tolls or displaced gas tax revenue. Buses and HOVs will be able to bypass the worst zones of congestion giving people real choices.

    That said, it’s still a horrible idea. It’s certainly less expensive to fund commuter transit during the most congested portions of rush hour than it is to try and build enough lanes to let everybody move freely whenever it suits them.

    If the ETA got its way and an 8 lane 520 bridge to Seattle were built, the Westbound traffic lanes would be the most expensive parking lot ever built.

  2. So why don’t we just stop building roads and highways where Eyman lives and in Eastern Washington instead?

    Problem solved.

    1. I agree. It’s so tiring to have people who are the greatest beneficiaries of the government denounce, belittle and cripple it.

    2. No kidding. Or make a small change that gas taxes (and other general taxes that go towards roads) can only be spent in the counties in which they are raised. While we are at it, we should require that school levy equalization should be voted on in every election with the question phrased like so:

      “Should the state of Washington continue to subsidize the education of lower-income counties through levy equalization?” Follow by a nice graph or chart showing which counties enjoy the fruits of socialized America.

    3. So does that include the Sounder and Washington State Ferries Will? Snohomish County’s been very supportive of Sound Transit.

      Your comments here are every bit as dumbassed as those you post on the P-I site.

    1. We might as well officially tag him as a “horses a$$” as one that failed. Unfortunately, that would be impeding on his rights. Maybe we could make an initiative that prohibits this kind of crap from making it on the ballot.

    2. I think the best solution is to simply abolish the initiative process. If you must keep it, require that initiatives be budget-neutral through a CBO-like scoring process.

      1. Article II, Section 1 of the constitution. We’d have an easier time going after the gas tax.

      2. What needs to be done, is outlaw paid signature gatherers. true citizen intitaves with broad support will be the only ones to make the ballot. Keeps corprations, and initiave farms like I-man’s out of the picture.

      3. Didn’t we try outlawing them? I thought it had a constitutional challenge or something.

    3. Better idea. Tim Eyman runs initiatives for a living, so he will ALWAYS have something that will generate contributions to his one-man enterprise, i.e. put money into his pocket. Why not raise a few hundred thousand dollars and hire Eyman to run a GOOD initiative? He doesn’t care about the issues, the politics, only getting the money. Odds are better than even that he’d bite on that.

  3. I’m definitely no fan of Eyman, his rhetoric and ideas seem half-baked, at best. Yet one has to admire his continual persistence at keeping our legislators on their toes.

    I look at this in the same vein of the wanna-be hippies of the 60s; most were clueless and just wanted to effect change of some sort that resulted in a better society. The end result is the same, put your politicians on notice that the populace is actually watching their work sometimes.

    1. No I really dont have to admire any aspect of him. He is a con artist and grifter. Why do you think his initiatives are so poorly written? It’s so he can keep coming back again and again with the same bs every year, if the initiative gets tossed out- well its another way to gin up the rubes and have another go at the donations trough.

      How has any of his stuff helped make the state better? Are you richer because of him? Are business fighting to come to Washington for our glorious libertarian paradise? Traffic any better thanks to him?

      1. I thought I made that part clear, the rationality of his wisdom is suspect, yes. Where did I not explain that part you didn’t understand?

        Let me make myself clearer…

        Yes, he has helped to make one aspect better, and I can’t believe that I’m admitting to it. He’s put the govt. on notice, for better or for worse. Whether him or a left-wing group carrying on, they all have a great effect of telling our legislators that some people actually care about what’s happening in Olympia. I can only guess as to your perspective on who is allowed or not to in terms of politicking. Funny how once we don’t see eye-to-eye with someone our perspective on democracy changes rapidly as to who is allowed to participate.

        Traffic is worse to a whole slew of problems in this state, in my opinion. Blaming Eyman is so ridiculous its laughable.

        No, I’m not richer because of him, or President Obama. Should I say get rid of the President as well? In fact, he’s helped to make me poorer, yet I still support many of his ideas, and voted for him. I LIKE Obama as a person, but he’s certainly still on a steep learning curve as the top administrator of this country.

  4. Never liked secession or secessionists very much. But after the last couple of decades, starting to wonder. Given the damage Washington State politics are presently doing to this region of Washington, balanced against the benefit we’re getting, how badly do we need the eastern part of this state right now? Maybe in thirty or forty years on our own, we could build something people east of the mountains would be glad to rejoin for both of our benefits?

    Up to now, I couldn’t live with myself if I helped Tim Eyman singlehandedly destroy a state I’ve lived in for over thirty-five years. But the civic illness that’s allowed him to do this much damage has got to have a cure. What’s everybody else think?

    Mark Dublin

      1. Until they realize how screwed they’d be without Western Washington’s tax money (not to mention all of the money from us progressives paying top dollar for local foods).

      2. Either (a) we’ve failed to articulate the fact that they depend on our tax money so they should stop voting for these stupid initiatives or (b) they know and are two blinkered to let it affect they way they vote. (b) seems more likely to me.

        Eastern Washington would probably fit in geographically and politically much better with Idaho, and I suspect Idaho would be happy to have ’em. Nonetheless, stuff like this hasn’t happened in 150 years and it would cause a national crisis if it were tried.

        But we can dream.

      3. The narrowness of the Idaho panhandle was created due to a surveyors error. Why not let them have everything east of the passes so as to rectify that mistake?

    1. This ‘civic illness’ comes from students not taking civics. Budget cuts, emphasis on math & science, has crippled part of the social foundation of this democracy.

      This is a nice way of saying most people are stupid, and any time they get a vote to ‘pay lower taxes’ they rarely pause to consider the consequences.

      1. The “Me” generation fomented by R W Reagan comes back to bite us in the ass, as all of us 1960s liburral/hippie/commies said would happen. Timmy is right in the center of that demographic.

      2. I disagree, I don’t think math and science teaching are at the root of it. Abstract, calm, rational thought is precisely what we lack in our public discourse; we have entirely too much America-the-beauooootiful chest-beating.

      1. From the Secretary of State’s website:

        There are two types of initiatives:

        Initiatives to the People, if certified to have sufficient signatures, are submitted for a vote of the people at the next state general election.

        Initiatives to the Legislature, if certified, are submitted to the Legislature at its next regular session in January. Once submitted, the Legislature must take one of the following three actions:
        1. The Legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people;
        2. The Legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election; or
        3. The Legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the Legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.

        There are two types of referenda:

        Referendum Measures are laws recently passed by the Legislature that are placed on the ballot because of petitions signed by voters.
        Referendum Bills are proposed laws referred to the voters by the Legislature.

    1. Do you mean a referendum? That’s where the legislature passes a law but refers it to the people for ratification (or the people challenge a law that has already been passed by the legislature).

  5. I don’t know… I don’t really see that one working out so well for Eyman. I can imagine all sorts of campaign slogans and ads that would make this look like a pretty stupid idea.

    And this isn’t just a Puget Sound vs. the rest of the state issue. There’s major highway and bridge projects to be conducted in Vancouver and Spokane and elsewhere around the state that would be affected by this.

    I’m not so sure his protect the working class, stick it to Seattle, shtick will work so well here.

    1. I hope so. Although many so called progressives I know got really mad at the idea of tolls. It will basically boil down to who understood arithmetic in school, and who didn’t.

  6. This would be a great idea, the tolls could fund the new HOV lanes that ST was on the hook for, freeing up money to go further or faster.

  7. I agree with Eyman.

    Tolls are a way of paying for something without really paying for it.

    WA State has a fair mechanism to pay for transit — it’s called Property Taxes.

    Before they impose a regressive income tax, or take money from the poor with sales taxes, or nickle and dime everyone with tolls and all the associated bureaucracy to manage it, they should get people to fund needed projects via property taxes.

    That requires an adult political will, that is sadly lacking in this society and its politicians.

    1. Well, I can see that rationale. But, I think a lot of people’s rationale (like mine) is that tolls have to do with partially paying more for what you use but also a strong element of discouraging particular uses while supporting alternatives that are more effective. (Candy and pop tax was one of those, discourage certain behaviours that have negative health effects.) Perhaps that’s an odd confluence of a bit of socialism and capitalism. But I property taxes will not encourage more efficient, beneficial behaviours, it will only fund the opportunity for them…maybe, unless we have an Eyman to tell us otherwise.

      1. It is not really the government’s job to encourage or discourage behaviors such as eating candy, or driving on the freeway. It is however their job to make sure we are educated well enough to decide for ourselves, on which count they fail most of the time. That still doesn’t make it alright for them to try to discourage or encourage certain behaviors in my opinion. By some of the same strings of logic people here use, CTA ought to charge higher fares at rush hour when overcrowding causes the trains brakes to catch fire, so they can better afford maintenance of their system, and perhaps encourage less people to ride at rush hour so maintenance isn’t as expensive. (This happened 2 times each of the past 2 weeks, and once a week for a while before that at LEAST) I’m just saying, Congestion tolling could go either way, to roads or transit, and just because Seattle barely has congestion on its rail/bus system, remember, it will happen at some point…
        Personally, I see no point to either Tolls, or Fares, they both ought to be free considering how we do things here, (mostly gov’t subsidized anyways, why not make it entirely Gov’t subsidized?)

      2. The government has to raise revenue somehow. If you don’t agree with that, then we can’t really have a rational debate. So I’ll assume you do.

        The next question is, where should that money come from? Economists generally agree that the best taxes are the ones that have the least distortionary effect. The theory is that the market will allocate resources as efficiently as possible, and so taxes will result in some amount of inefficiency.

        But there’s one big exception: certain activities have negative externalities, which the market fails to take into account. Thus, without any taxes, society consumes those resources at a higher level than is optimal.

        A very effective way to fix this kind of market failure is with a Pigovian tax. In effect, such a tax “internalizes” the externality. Economists and politicians from across the political spectrum have endorsed Pigovian taxes as one of the few ways for government to raise revenue with *positive*, rather than negative, distortionary effects.

        In the case of driving, there are numerous externalities we can point to that suggest that the current level of driving is higher than optimal: congestion, pollution, etc. By raising taxes and fees on driving-related activities, we can “internalize the externalities”, and bring driving down to the socially optimal level.

        It’s important to note that congestion itself is an externality. Past a certain level of congestion, every extra car on a highway is imposing a non-trivial cost on every other car, by slowing them down. Tolls are a way of internalizing this externality, by making driving more expensive at the times when congestion is the highest. By forcing people to pay for the congestion they would otherwise cause, tolls are able to bring driving at peak times down to an optimal level.

        Why not have congestion pricing for buses? Well, we do, somewhat; buses in Seattle cost more at peak than at off-peak. But one of the goals of congestion pricing is to eliminate road congestion, not bus congestion. If “congestion pricing” for buses causes a number of people to switch from buses to cars, then you’ve actually made road congestion worse. And while some buses are definitely overcrowded at peak, I’m pretty sure that free-flowing highways are a much more important regional priority than making sure everyone on the bus has a seat.

        For what it’s worth, I would happily eliminate both 520 tolls and bus fares after 10pm or so — whenever it is that we see a significant demand drop-off. But the proper solution to overcrowded buses at peak isn’t to raise fares, it’s to run more buses. If your goal is to reduce highway congestion, the latter will be much more effective.

      3. I agree the government needs money, I do not agree that it should be through the use of tolls or fares, and I had forgotten that Seattle actually does raise fares during peak on busses, I’ve been away too long. CTA is a flat rate any time any distance $2.00 bus, $2.25 Rail (very good at encouraging walking over distances of less than 2 miles when out of the timeframe of the U-Pass).
        You say the market has failed to correct for our usage (to maintain appropriate levels), but the market didn’t build most of our roads, nor would it have, I don’t think, had we let it build the roads.
        Had we let the market dominate, I feel like America would have much denser cities, and it would still be the world’s leader in public transit, as it was in 1900.

      4. For better or worse, we’re in the world we’re in. The US did overinvest in highways, and we now have to deal with the consequences. Sometimes, that means using government intervention now to correct the actions of previous government intervention.

        You haven’t actually responded to my arguments about tolls/fees and Pigovian taxes…

    2. Except that you do realize it is Eyman who has also restricted the application of property taxes. See I-695 as the best example. The property tax on cars was replaced with a flat, never adjusted-for-inflation, rate.

  8. Yeah, so, when are we going to put an initiative on the ballot to banish him from the state?

    Well, should this make it to the ballot, as per usual, I will be voting no on yet another Eyman initiative. Actually, all of them that make it just out of principle. But, also because this is a terrible and once again irrational restriction on state taxing authority.

  9. Here I happen to agree with Mr. Eyman, the tolls are for the capital expenses of a new bridge. Tacoma did this with their bridge over the narrows, Seattle & Bellevue are going to have pony up for part of the cost of this bridge. But once it’s built then the general fund/property taxes can pay for maintenance.

    All this blather about killing the initiative process is stupid. Mr. Eyman has just one vote, same as the rest of us. If you don’t like democratic societies, there are plenty of countries which do government by mandate without any input from the citizens and none of them are places I want to live. How about naming one of those places so we can decide for ourselves whether a top down structure is truly better. China for instance is building out infrastructure like crazy, rail line everywhere, subways, high speed mag lev. etc. But do I want to go live there? Nope. I’d prefer here or India which has the chaos of democracy.

    1. You can have a democrazy without an initiative process. Our input is that we elect people to run the government. We are saying that, as citizens, we don’t want to run the government day-to-day by popular vote. We vote for candidates who’s ideologies generally align with our own.

      I have mixed feelings about the initiative process. I like the idea of a process that allows a good idea to get put into law that, for whatever reason, wouldn’t ever happen through the normal legislative process. As it is currently structured, however, it allows wealthy entities to buy signatures to put things on the ballot that benefit them. While I trust my own vote to weed out bad measures, I don’t necessarily trust my fellow voters to do so. People are too easily drawn to “shiny” half-baked ideas and don’t bother to consider side effects & unintended consequences.

      I guess some of the same things could be said about the way we vote for party candidates, etc. Thus my mixed feelings.

      1. Agreed. I’ll even go one further. Even if the way we vote for candidates is flawed like our votes on initiatives, at least an elected official, once elected, is pretty much forced to look at a lot of data and stakeholder input from all sides before taking a vote.

        Whether they listen or can comprehend is a different matter, but if the legislature would have to vote on this particular proposal, they would hear a lot of arguments from pro-transit groups, pro-car groups, anti-government groups, cities, counties, etc. They would also receive relatively impartial data and reports from state agencies (e.g. WSDOT, OFM, Depts of Ecology, Commerce).

        On the other hand, all most citizens will see in terms of supporting information is a ballot title, explanatory statement, and a lot of misleading advertising from both sides.

        I can’t even believe some of the complicated initiatives that I had to decide on last November. Even after several hours of research I was still making a barely-educated guess about really important things like whether or not we should be able to deny bail to capital murder suspects.

      2. Yes, this strange state of affairs hearkens back to the US Supreme Court that declares that money is speech and the more money you have the more speech you get to make. Or it’s corollary the Golden rule — those who have the gold, make the rules.

      3. Ok, if you don’t trust the voters, then why bother with votes for things like funding for light rail? Why trust the voters to elect representatives who aren’t corrupt? Why trust voters to vote for things like library bonds? or 911 funding? or school levy’s? Or parks?

        The thing about initiatives is that there is no backroom deal. You can’t pay all of us WA voters to vote for something. We won’t vote for it knowing wink wink, nod nod, that some other bill will be passed for us.

        The other thing is that initiatives are out in the public eye for months. Plenty of time to look them over and read the fine print. No bill submitted by some congressperson with a hidden clause we don’t notice.

        And initiatives are democracy in action, not a republic. We trust ourselves to do what’s right. Sometimes it’s messy. And sometimes we don’t want to “eat our vegetables” but generally we will vote for what needs to be done.

      4. “And initiatives are democracy in action, not a republic. We trust ourselves to do what’s right. Sometimes it’s messy. And sometimes we don’t want to “eat our vegetables” but generally we will vote for what needs to be done.”

        You’ve obviously never heard of a state called “California.”

  10. I say give his parents their tax money back for his education and scramble his brain so he’s an infant again. His education is his own damn problem.

  11. the Legislature has focused too much on raising capital costs from tolls. their focus should shift to demand management. it would improve the flow for all modes. they could treat the limited access highway network like a utility and focus the use of toll revenue on maintenance and transit service in the same corridors. the Legislature also has failed to ask WSDOT to study the tolling of all lanes rather than just HOT lanes.

  12. I blame the internet and only’s… me only, I care not about you, and my web site encourages me to think that way.

    User fees become insane in a complex society. Shall only those who are robbed pay for police? Only those whose houses burn pay for fire? If you get stuck in an elevator, YOU should pay to have it repaired?

    There is a greater good when transportation and the movement of goods and services are efficient. Eyeman refuses to take on the big picture, makes his money harvesting low lying fruit, and goes on unabated because he makes good money doing it by conning those who loose the most, and funding from those who gain the most. Period.

    This populist state where my family has been for over 100 years has wavered from libertaian to socialist and back. The only good that has come from Timmy is the state has had to go out of its way to prove it is spending wisely – great for a democracy, but expensive… taking valuable time and resources to insure that the dimmest bulb can try to understand why profesionals come up with some of these ideas.

    Before someone points out the Ark was built by Amatures and the Titanic by professionals… for the most part our gov’t spends good money to try to hire the best possible. Public imput is good… but at some point we have to trust.

    We are one of 5 states without an income tax, and budget mandates require a huge amount of funds have no ability to be spent elsewhere. There is only so much general fund pie to split. 100 years ago we funded schools with lumber – back then in made sense.

    Toll roads make sense to a point… the Stupidist thing we have done in the past was taking the tolls OFF once the bridge was paid for, with no thought that in 50 years we will have to replace or improve it. If we had left tolls on both lake brigdes, we would have the funds to pay for the new 520… Ditto if we had kept tolls on the Narrows…

    Tolls on the Hood Canal Bridge helped pay for the WSF. After it sank in 79, insurance rebuilt it, and locals said hey, why the tolls – the bridge is paid for. Like morons, we took them off. Now we have rusty ferries, and had to buy bonds to replace the various ramps of the bridge… overall think we ended up spending more? Heck yes. Penny wise and pound foolish.

    Major roads, rails and ships benefit us all, even if we do not directly use them.
    I am tired of the professional naysayers who make their money and care not about the bigger picture.

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