ELECTION 2014: Washington locales to decide on transportation questions
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor Fall ballots in counties and cities throughout Washington state will include questions that cover transportation issues. In Clark County, voters will provide insight into whether a third bridge should be built over the Columbia River east of the existing Interstate 205 bridge. The bridge would connect the county and Multnomah County, Ore. Advisory Vote 1 will ask voters whether they support plans for a private firm to build a toll-free east county bridge. The proposed $860 million project would carry two lanes of traffic each way. Two covered lanes would also be built for bicycles and pedestrians. Advocates say a yes vote “translates to a directive to your elected representatives to work on your behalf to get it done.”Seattle voters will decide on two transit questions. The first question would benefit the Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Proposition 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters whether to fund metro transit service within Seattle city limits and along key inter-city routes. Specifically, voters will decide whether to authorize an additional vehicle license fee of $60 per registered vehicle and authorize a 0.1-cent sales and use tax. Supporters say that passage is needed to prevent service cuts planned for 2015 due to funding shortfalls. Mayor Ed Murray said that preserving transit service is the most progressive act voters can take. “It’s clear that Seattle voters value transit service as a way of life and, for many, it is a lifeline we cannot afford to cut,” Murray said in a recent news release. The second question covers the creation of a city transportation authority to plan, build, operate and maintain monorail facilities. If approved, Citizen Petition 1 would add a $5 relicensing tab fee on vehicles registered within the city. In neighboring Snohomish County, voters in the city of Lynnwood will decide on a sales and use tax to fund transportation improvements. Proposition 1 would authorize a tax of 0.2 percent to be collected in the area for 10 years. In Whatcom County, voters in the city of Ferndale will decide whether to impose a 1-cent tax on fuel purchases. Passage of Proposition 1 would authorize charging the extra fee at fuel stops within the city located along Interstate 5. Additional revenue would be earmarked for road construction and maintenance. The first 60,000 gallons sold at fuel stations each month would be exempted from collection of the penny tax. In 2013, the city’s 16 fuel stations accumulated about $6 million in taxable retail sales. Supporters say the revenue is needed to help the city address an estimated $15.3 million needed for infrastructure improvements. In San Juan County, the town of Friday Harbor’s ballot will include a question that would benefit transportation work. Proposition 1 will ask voters in the San Juan Island locale whether to impose a two-tenths percent sales tax for 10 years to help pay for transportation improvements. Across the state in the city of Spokane, ballots will include a question about street funding. Proposition 1 will ask voters whether to extend current property tax assessments. If approved, the city would get $25 million annually for street repairs. In nearby Whitman County, voters in multiple towns will decide on road funding questions. They are: Colton: Whether to levy an additional tax of $1.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $30,000 for projects that include street improvements. Endicott: Whether to impose a levy of an additional tax of $1.57 per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $20,000 for street work and maintenance. Farmington: Whether to charge an additional tax of 84 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $9,000 for street maintenance. Oakesdale: Whether to levy an additional tax of $1.89 per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $36,000 for street work. St. John: Whether to impose an additional tax of $2.17 per $1,000 of assessed property value to raise $70,000 for street improvements and maintenance. For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here. Copyright © OOIDA - See more at: http://www.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=27899#.VFOJIel0yM8
LaHood again pushes bolstering highway funding, economic impacts of doing so
Continuing his “America is one big pothole” theme, former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood used an appearance at a Caterpillar press event Wednesday night to lambast the present direction of U.S. transportation policy.
Calling the 2-year transportation bill passed in 2012 “chintzy,” LaHood called upon Congress to think as roads as economic corridors. “I hear people today talking about alternative methods of funding, but what we need is a big pot of money. We need to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon. Do it over two to three years, but index it to the cost of living.” If that index had happened in 1993, the last year the gas tax was raised, America would have the “big pot of money” that LaHood advocates. Even a 10 cent raise is not near enough, “but it would send the message that America’s serious” about its roads and bridges.
Even though politicians don’t want to raise taxes, the states have taken another direction, LaHood says. “In states where they’ve had a referendum to raise the gas tax one or two pennies, 95 percent of the referendums have passed because people know it’s going to roads.” His advice to these politicians: “Don’t be afraid to raise the gas tax, because people won’t be made at you. “
LaHood, who served as DOT secretary from 2009 to 2013, calls the movement to transfer highway funds to state coffers, to be used at their discretion, “a terrible idea. “There is value in having a national program,” he says. “Do we really want 50 states doing their own thing,?” he asked.
He calls the Nov. 4th elections critical. “We need to elect people who want us to be No. 1 in infrastructure development, instead of where we are, at No. 16,” LaHood says. “It’s an important election but there’s a lot of apathy.”
Contractors have a responsibility in this election to let their Congressional representatives know the importance of a 6-year highway bill, LaHood contends. ‘Persuade your Congress people to be bold, and to have vision” with regards to a long-term highway bill. “Almost every segment of the economy benefits,” he says; “there’s no downside.”