Counterpoint (and Poll): Vote Against I-1125

Local resident Bert Loosmore weighs in on why I-1125 is a bad idea and you should vote against it.

I’d like to respond to councilman Mike Cero’s recent article in the .  I suspect that tolls are a concern for most Mercer Island residents and appreciate the work the council has done to oppose this, but let’s be clear. Initiative I-1125 does it not prevent tolls on I-90, nor is it simply about that. 

Tolls are not a certainty on I-90, in fact they are not currently in any officially approved plan. And passage of 1125 does not keep them from coming. The focus on tolls is misleading. All that I-1125 does related to I90 tolls is ensure that revenue from tolls is used for projects where the tolls are located.

But let’s think about the ramifications of such a plan. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that under I-1125, when the I90 bridge needs repair, which it will, that I-90 will need to become a toll bridge. Is this one of Mike’s “ignored consequences”?

More importantly, I-1125 does more than just dictate where toll revenue is spent. One of its effects will be to delay currently planned transportation projects. It also has the unintended, or maybe actually intentional, consequence of stopping light rail from coming across Lake Washington. The voters have already approved this (57%) and we have spent significant funds preparing for this. When Mike states, “I-1125 will not stop regional transportation projects”, analysis of the effects of the initiative would suggest otherwise.

Finally, in spite of what Mike suggests, I-1125 would make transportation funding more expensive not less. Yes, borrowing against toll revenue is more expensive than using general obligation (GO) bonds. But, what Mike fails to point out is that our state is already highly leveraged and can’t borrow more money using this approach. Therefore, to complete promised and necessary transportation projects, it is turning to an alternative approach to secure funding, namely loans backed by toll revenue. Because this provision pus toll pricing in politicians hands, something which no other state does, I-1125 is expected to raise rates at which the State can borrow money. Making toll pricing subject to political whims is expected to be viewed as risky for bondholders, thus driving rates up. And to be clear, I-1125 doesn’t force use of GO bonds for transportation.

Latest polls suggest support for I-1125 is falling (according to an Oct 24th Seattle Times article). The opposition against I-1125 is strong, and includes a variety of businesses that think its passage will hurt our economy. Please join them in voting no

Jim Horn November 03, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I-1125 merely puts into RCW what has been successfully used by the State of WA to fund the original I-90 floating bridge (then Route 10), the Hood Canal Bridge, the 520 Bridge and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge 3 times. It has proven to be a successful way to finance transportation mega projects. Why change to more expensive revenue bonds? Why change to a form of tolling that is unproven, would probably collect less money and certainly be unfair to low income people and Mercer island residents. If the State of Washington is in such a bad financial situation as Bert Loosmore maybe we shouldn't be borrowing anymore money. I-1125 does not restrict whether the State uses revenue bonds or general obligation bonds for transportation projects. That is the subject worthy of a separate policy debate. I-1125 does insure that toll monies would be used for capacity road improvements on the road in which the tolls are collected and that the tolls would stop when the bonds are paid off. Our gas tax pays for the maintenance and operation of the roadways. Don't let tolls become just another stream of tax monies to be used anywhere and for any purpose. Vote for I-1125.
Nathan Massey November 04, 2011 at 06:23 AM
Sen. Horn, you're burying your head in the sand here. Why change to "more expensive revenue bonds?" Because we don't have the bonding capacity to issue more general obligation bonds without new gas tax revenue. Do you support raising the gas tax, Sen. Horn?
Jim Horn November 05, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Hi Nathan, i hope we can avoid the personal innuendoes in discussing an issue. Yes, I do support raising the gas tax. Gas tax is collected on a volume basis so if the purchasing power of the gas tax is to be maintained , the rate needs to be adjusted every year. Most other forms of taxation do this automatically since they are usually based on price or value. The Nickel tax and the TPA tax were largely devoted to new infrastructure. Out of the balance of gas tax, 23 cents, only 8 cents is going to maintenance and operations. A 2 cent increase in gas tax would have been a 25% increase in maintenance and operations if it directed toward that purpose. In the long run, after the bonds are paid off for the Nickel and TPA projects, that tax will then be available for maintenance and operations or new projects. The bonding capacity of the State is an arbitrary limit set by the legislature. Again if the State is in such a poor financial situation as you suggest, maybe we should think seriously before taking on more debt. If the projected revenue is dependable enough to pay off a revenue bond then it would also be dependable enough to pay off a general obligation bond.
Bob November 06, 2011 at 06:34 AM
Please respect Jim Horn. We're two steps forward when he was in Office, and now several steps in arrears with/after Weinstein (did he just 'evaporate'?) An issue that affects us all so directly should be directed by a professional, not emotionally.


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