Originally published Monday, October 24, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Guest columnist

Pro | Initiative 1125 stops state officials 'sneaking' ahead with more tolled roadways

Guest columnist Tim Eyman urges voters to approve Initiative 1125, which would put tolling decisions in the hands of the Legislature. He argues without that protection, state officials could toll more roadways without accountability.

Special to The Times

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The Seattle mayor and many other politicians want to restrict your mobility through taxes and tolls. They want to tell you when and where to go. They want social engineering in the form of variable tolls on every highway, bridge, road and street in the Puget Sound region and beyond.

In July, The Seattle Times reported that the state is considering tolling on Interstate 5, "charging drivers up to $5.50," and round-trip tolls for drivers on the Highway 520 bridge starting at $7. And since that's not enough, they're planning to tax drivers on Interstate 90 but use the money to pay for 520. Plus tolls on Interstate 405 and Highways 99, 167 and 522.

But that's just the beginning. The Times story noted the state House Transportation Committee chairwoman said the state may be ready as early as next year for tolled highways "as a grid-like, interconnected system instead of being implemented piecemeal" ["Express lanes on I-5 may join the toll club," page one, July 14].

This approach — toll express lanes on all the major roads — was in a recent report for the Seattle mayor. The Puget Sound Regional Council's Transportation 2040 plan includes tolls on every primary and secondary roadway in the Puget Sound region.

With tolls everywhere, their plans are to essentially turn our vehicles into taxis with the government's meter charging us nonstop as soon as we leave our driveways.

We're talking about even more dollars being taken away from already-stretched family budgets every year.

With such a radical change in the government's power to tax and toll, you need to be told about it. And the people deserve a voice and a choice.

Initiative 1125 solidifies the time-tested protections we've had for nearly a century when it comes to transportation taxes and tolls. I-1125 will:

• Prohibit transportation money from being diverted to the general fund and spent on non-transportation purposes.

• Stops tolls on one project from being diverted and spent on something other than the project itself.

• Prevents "forever tolls," requiring tolls to end once a project is paid for.

• Keeps tolls fair, consistent and uniform.

We paid for the original I-90 bridge with a uniform 10-cent toll and it was so successful, the project got paid off a decade early. The original 520 bridge had a consistent 19-cent toll and it was also paid off early. There's a uniform toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge right now. This fair, proven approach will be continued with I-1125.

Our state already imposes one of the highest gas taxes in the nation, collecting billions every year. Nonetheless, they're talking about double-taxing us with billions more from tolls on existing streets, roads, bridges and highways.

I-1125 also closes a big loophole the Legislature put in last year's tougher-to-raise-taxes Initiative 1053. Approved by 64 percent of voters last November, I-1053 prohibited unelected bureaucrats from unilaterally imposing taxes and fees. After it passed, Gov. Chris Gregoire said: "I'm not gonna let 1053 stand in the way of me moving forward for what I think is right."

During this year's session, Olympia violated the voter mandate by sneaking in a provision that put a massive loophole in I-1053, exempting transportation taxes, fees and tolls from its voter-approved protections.

I-1125 strengthens accountability and transparency by closing that multibillion-dollar loophole and once again prohibiting the imposition of transportation taxes, fees and tolls by unelected bureaucrats.

In these tough times, the idea of government taking money out of family budgets is really scary. People are hurting, and yet Olympia is nonetheless sneaking forward with "tolls" that are just taxes by another name.

And that's why it's important to protect ourselves by approving I-1125.

Tim Eyman is one of the co-sponsors of Initiative 1125, the "Protect Gas-Taxes and Toll-Revenues Act."


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