Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, June 20, 2005

Pullman Gets Hosed

Well, it's summer time again, and in Pullman that means the flag persons and orange cones are out in force. It made me start thinking about the new gas tax in Washington that was passed at the last moment back in April by the legislature.

In 2002, Washington citizens overwhelmingly rejected R51 which proposed a 9 cents a gallon gas tax increase. In 2003, the politicians in Olympia went ahead and increased the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon anyway. This year, they added another 9.5 cents a gallon on to our gas tax giving Washington the "honor" of the highest gas tax in the country, plus a variety of increased vehicle licensing fees (in clear violation of I-695).

That's a 60% increase in TWO YEARS!

What does Pullman and the Palouse get out of all this?


Since Seattle residents are already paying for Sound Transit and the monorail (both incredibly over-budget boondoggles with nothing to show for all the money spent), the rest of the state is now being asked to pay to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct and the 520 floating bridge. Of course, this latest 9.5 cent increase won't even come close to fully funding those two projects, so we can expect even higher gas taxes passed as "emergency" legislation down the road. In fact, the Viaduct and floating bridge have no construction plans and no timetable. The Greens in Seattle want to replace the viaduct with a more aesthetically pleasing and "environmentally friendly" tunnel, which has the potential to become the biggest money sinkhole ever seen in this state.

Of the approximately $7,139,900,000 to be generated by this latest round of gas taxes for capital projects, a whopping $4,058,800,000 is earmarked for projects in King County and Seattle. Whitman County gets only $9 million. All of our local politicians voted against the measure, but the tyrannical Seattle lobby got their way, as they always do.

The gory details can be found here. I ran some numbers just for fun:
King County population - 1,761,411
Whitman County population - 40,702

Money allocated per King County resident for projects- $2,304.29
Money allocated per Whitman County resident for projects - $221.12
Some would make the argument "Well, King County has more road projects." Okay, fine. let them pay for it then. Why should we in Pullman fund projects that are of no benefit to us?

To put it another way: Of every 8.5 cents per gallon of gas sold in Pullman (1 cent of the 9.5 cent gas tax goes back to cities and counties), 4.8 cents will go to King County, while 1/100th of a cent will stay here. Insane. Better go to as many Mariners and Seahawks games as you can to get some use from the roads your hard-earned money will pay for.

"Governor" Gregoire has touted how every county in the state is getting money from this tax. When Gregoire was in Pullman for a WSU commencement speech, she mentioned bridges to a group of local leaders as one of the "benefits" we were getting from the tax. The WSDOT plan calls for Whitman County to receive $4 million each for bridges in Oakesdale and Colfax that need repair. I guess even our unelected Governor realized this was pretty pathetic as she almost apologized: "If eastern Washington ever has a need, I'm sure the rest of the state will pitch in to help out". Yeah, right.

We have many highway needs already that aren't being addressed. The Palouse Economic Development Council's Regional Transportation Plan has identified about $172.71 million in road projects for Whitman County (see Page 9 of Table 8). Of that, only $30 million is currently funded. That funding is for the widening of the Moscow-Pullman Highway, which was supposed to be paid for with the last go-round of gas tax raises and yet we have yet to see one shovel of dirt broken for construction and it is already in danger of running out of money before it even starts. Click here for details. Ironically enough, the bridges being funded with this latest tax are not even listed in the PEDC's plan. Figures. That's what happens when west side bureaucrats are in charge. Meanwhile, the widening of US 195 between Colfax and Spokane goes unfunded and people continue to die on that dangerous highway.

In addition, we will end up paying a second tax. Goods in Pullman stores have to be shipped by truck over long distances. These extra gas costs will be passed along to us the consumer. And as drivers flock to Idaho, just 8 miles away, for cheaper gas, Pullman gas stations will feel the pinch and may be forced to close.

What can you do?

I-912 has been proposed to roll back this egregiously unfair new gas tax. If you are a registered Washington voter, go out today and sign a petition to put I-912 on the ballot in November. Send me an e-mail if you don't know where to find a petition.

There are only 19 days left to obtain 250,000 signatures. Let's send a message to those Seattle tax-and-spend liberals that they can't ignore Pullman until Apple Cup every other year.

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