By Giovanna Orecchio, Anna Kemper and Rosa Rice-Pelepko
Washingtonians know the pain of traffic all too well – especially those of us from King County. We understand, on a spiritual level, how terrible it is to sit in your car for hours trying to get across town. In fact, we’ve given up measuring distances in miles and instead talk in hours. You want to drive from Seattle to Redmond to meet your friends for tacos at 5:30? Cool, you better leave at 3:30 because even though it’s only 15 miles it’s going to take you 2 hours. But there’s good news! There’s a better way: light rail.
True to Washington’s innovative and forward-looking character, voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties approved the massive $54 billion Sound Transit 3 light rail funding in 2016. We voted to expand light rail (which currently runs from UW to Sea-Tac) all the way to Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah. With this vote we chose to knit our communities communities together, fight climate change, reduce congestion, and create thousands of well-paying construction jobs. We voted for a better future full of reliable mass transit which Initiative 976 threatens to rip away.
With election season upon us, initiative signature-gatherers are already stationed around campus. They’re mostly independently hired and paid to ask for signatures. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some initiatives deserve your signature and others don’t. For example, the new carbon pricing initiative certainly deserves your signature! But some, like I-976, are totally awful.
I-976 is the brainchild of conservative anti-tax activist Tim Eyman. Eyman makes his living off filing ballot initiatives, and is hardly the guy from whom we should take public policy advice. This year, he’s decided to gut the prime source of funding for the biggest public infrastructure project in the state: light rail.
Sound Transit 3 (light rail) gets most of its funding from car tab fees which are calculated based on the value of your car. If you drive a fancy new Mercedes, you pay more. If you drive a 2003 used Honda Civic, you pay less. All in all, it’s a decently equitable system. Instead, I-976 would make everyone pay a regressive flat fee of $30.
At the end of the day, I-976 will cut car tab fees for people with fancy cars and slash funding for our light rail expansion. That’s not fair, not smart, and not what we voted for. We encourage you to stand up for jobs, mass transit, and the will of the voters: don’t sign I-976!
Giovanna Orecchio is a AS Legislative Affairs Council member at-large, Anna Kemper is the AS local liaison, Rosa Rice-Pelepko is the AS legislative liaison.