Tim Eyman’s new ballot measure targets tolls and transit taxes

MUKILTEO — The newest ballot measure conceived by Mukilteo’s Tim Eyman would end tolling on I-405 and could crimp Sound Transit’s ability to bring light rail service to Everett.

As proposed, Initiative 869 also would repeal car tab fees imposed by cities to pay for local road projects and ax weight fees charged by the state to defray costs of highway improvements.

“It doesn’t matter what the level of government, these taxes, fees, tolls and other charges don’t have the consent of the governed,” Eyman said.

Signature-gathering for the measure dubbed “We Love Our Cars” began Thursday, he said. It is an initiative to the Legislature, which means Eyman has until Dec. 31 to turn in at least 246,372 signatures of registered voters to ensure a spot on the November 2017 ballot.

If enough signatures are collected, the measure will first be sent to the Legislature for possible adoption. If it isn’t, it would appear on the ballot.

In the meantime Eyman said he has abandoned efforts to qualify Initiative 1421 for the ballot this fall. The measure, launched with much fanfare early in the year, sought to bring back $30 car tabs.

“That one never took off,” he said.

He raised nearly $200,000 for that campaign and has about two-thirds left unspent, according to online records of the state Public Disclosure Commission. Eyman said he will use those leftover dollars on this new initiative.

Meanwhile, one of Eyman’s staunchest critics said the new measure would eviscerate funding for roads and transit at both the state and regional levels.

Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute and Permanent Defense, also suggested Eyman might fail to get this measure to the ballot.

“Time will tell if I-869 is for real or not,” Villeneuve said. “Remember, Eyman printed up petitions for I-1421, too — and even made a big show of being the first to sign one in front of television cameras — but I-1421 has now been abandoned. I-869 won’t make it either unless Eyman has commitments from his wealthy benefactors to fund a signature drive. The gears of his initiative factory simply cannot turn without big money.”

Villeneuve vowed that if I-869 gets in front of voters, there will be an alliance of groups opposing it.

Two elements of Eyman’s new measure are certain to attract a lot of interest.

One aims to repeal any increase in the motor vehicle excise tax secured by Sound Transit to pay for the expansion plan known as ST3. This fall, Sound Transit is expected to seek voter approval for an increase in that tax along with hikes in the sales tax and local property tax to cover the $54 billion expansion that would bring light rail to Everett.

Eyman said his measure, if it makes the ballot and is passed next year, would repeal any vehicle excise tax increase passed by voters as part of ST3.

The other notable piece would end tolling on I-405 and Highway 167. However, it would allow tolling in express lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes on bridges and in tunnels.

Eyman said his measure seeks to help vehicle owners who are being overtaxed by all levels of government. “There is a war on cars and it’s time for the people to fight back,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Villeneuve said voters know money is required to maintain and improve the state’s transportation system and measures such as this could make the roads they drive on worse.

“Voters have repeatedly said no to right wing initiatives that would mess with our transportation system, but Eyman refuses to listen,” Villeneuve said. “The investments we’ve made to strengthen mobility in Washington must be protected.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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