Coalition forms to oppose Initiative 985

July 24, 2008 by · Comments Off on Coalition forms to oppose Initiative 985
Filed under: Announcements 

Coalition Emerging to Oppose Initiative 985

Proposed Initiative Would Cut Funding for Education and Health
Care while Increasing Traffic Congestion

SEATTLE – As the Secretary of State’s Office qualified I-985 for the November ballot, a diverse array of interests from across the state are emerging to oppose this latest measure from Tim Eyman.

Opponents cited a long list of problems that would be caused or exacerbated by I-985. “Initiative 985 is an initiative that promises everything for nothing,” said Bill LaBorde, State Director for Environment Washington and a spokesperson for the No! on I-985 campaign. It would divert more than $127 million per year that now goes to the general operating budget into a dedicated account that would do little address the state’s transportation problems. Added LaBorde, “with most of the general fund dedicated to education (52%), and health care and social services (30.5%), $127 million a year is a hit that the people of our state can ill afford to take at this moment of economic uncertainty.”

Mike Town, a Lake Washington School District teacher, raised concerns about the impacts of I-985 on his high school students: “We would lose funding that now helps pay for text books and reductions in class size,” he said.

“Even if you buy the argument that we can build our way out of congestion, $127 million a year doesn’t do much building but it sure takes lots of valuable funding away from kids and sick people, said LaBorde. “With that $127 million you could either educate more than 16,000 kids in our public schools, or you could add maybe a mile of new freeway in the Puget Sound area. You could provide health insurance coverage for 40,000 children, or you could build a ramp on a new interchange.” “Because of the constraints this measure places on tolling and transportation spending, I’m worried that if it passes, we will simply not have the funding necessary to replace the SR 520 floating bridge, said Rob Johnson, Regional Policy Director for Transportation Choices Coalition.

I-985 would also require opening High Occupancy Vehicle lanes to solo drivers for all but three hours each weekday morning and evening, creating havoc with an HOV system that has taken decades to build. “This would undermine the advantages that express buses, vanpools and carpools now have during certain peak hours, making it more difficult for commuters to get to work quickly and reliably at a time when rising gas prices are creating huge increases in transit ridership.” “The ironic thing about the so-called Congestion Relief Initiative is that there’s not a single provision in it that will actually provide any congestion relief. In fact, it probably makes congestion worse,” noted Johnson.

The initiative would also require cities to spend scarce dollars on traffic light synchronization projects which, in many cases, offer no improvement in traffic congestion. By diverting revenue from the operation of red light cameras, the measure would decrease safety in school zones and other areas with heavy pedestrian activity. Under the I-985, the State would be specifically prohibited from using any money from the Congestion Account for some of the most practical and effective methods for reducing congestion – “…park and ride lots, ferries, trolleys, buses, monorail, light rail, or heavy rail.”

Even worse, I-985 creates greater inequities between rural and urban communities by diverting sales tax dollars collected from around the state to fix congestion problems that mostly affect the Puget Sound area. Urban communities lose control; rural communities lose money.

FUSE Washington, Transportation Choices Coalition, the Sierra Club, Environment Washington, Futurewise, WashPIRG and Washington Environmental Council have already joined the coalition against I-985. Over the next few weeks, several more business and labor organizations are expected to join the campaign against the initiative.