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OFM: Eyman’s I-1125 would halt transportation projects

OLYMPIA — The state Office of Fiscal Management has released its fiscal analysis of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1125, finding that if passed, the initiative would blast a hole in state transportation funding, halting major projects and creating a project backlog in communities around the state.

Masquerading as a measure about tolling, I-1125 is a dangerous and irresponsible initiative designed to halt major transportation projects across the state.  At a time when our economy most needs help, I-1125 would mire our communities in gridlock, stall vital projects around the state and threaten businesses across the state. Delegates to the Washington  State Labor Council 2012 Convention held earlier this month unanimously voted to oppose I-1125.

OFM notes that I-1125 would:

  • Blow a substantial financing hole in the Highway 520 bridge replacement across Lake Washington plan of more than $500 million — including sacrificing half or more of $123 million in federal grant funding.
  • Threaten multiple other projects including expansion of I-405, the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement and the Columbia River Crossing.
  • Jeopardize other projects by switching funding burden from user based tolls to the already overburdened state gas tax, forcing communities around the state to pay more for projects they won’t ever use.

The OFM fiscal note concurs with findings released by the state treasurer’s office, whose statements raised concerns about the state’s ability to sell bonds for transportation projects if I-1125 passed. Currently, an independent, non-partisan commission sets toll rates in the state. I-1125 would take toll rates out of the hands of that independent commission and turn it over to the state legislature.  The Treasurer’s office noted:

“Requiring tolls to be set and adjusted by the Legislature rather than by an independent toll-setting body makes the cost of bonds secured solely by toll revenue prohibitively expensive and would be unprecedented nationally. Because investors in toll revenue bonds see the independence of toll-setting bodies as a critical credit characteristic, no other toll revenue bond issuer in the nation sets tolls subject to legislative approval.”

An independent analysis for the State Treasurer found that bonding costs for taxpayers will rise substantially if 1125 passes — adding more than $18 million in costs for every $100 million in toll-backed bonds issued by the state.

This isn’t the first time that Eyman has sponsored a measure aimed at changing transportation policy and creating more gridlock.  In recent years, several Eyman-backed transportation measures have been defeated at the polls or thrown out by the courts because they are poorly written or aren’t constitutional.

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