In November, local voters approved Sound Transit 3 by a comfortable margin. However, according to notorious anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, now that voters are seeing the effects of their vote in increased sales tax, property tax, and, especially, car-tab fees, Puget Sound voters are “having buyer’s remorse.” That’s why Eyman has launched yet another campaign to lower car-tab taxes to a state-wide flat rate of $30.
Jessyn Farrell, mayoral candidate and transit champion, spoke out Thursday at the yawning mouth of the International District’s transit tunnel in opposition to Eyman’s initiative.
Farrell, a former director of the Transportation Choices Coalition and a legislator that has fought hard for transit, says that Eyman’s initiative would be destructive to Sound Transit 3 because, she says, car-tab taxes are critical for the success and execution of the plan. Also speaking out against Eyman’s effort was Councilmember Rob Johnson, who said that Eyman’s initiative, if passed, would cut upwards of $7 billion from Sound Transit funding.
ST3 would expand light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, Tacoma, and elsewhere. Over the next 25 years more than 60 miles of light rail will be added with expanded bus and commuter rail service. The estimated cost is $54 billion. Farrell pushed back against Eyman’s effort by pointed out his checkered history with campaign finance laws.
“This is a proposal that is peddled by someone who is ethically challenged,” Farrell said, “and we have to beat this back because we know that light rail works. In an era of Trump, in an era of divisiveness, it’s time for us to move forward.”
Not to be outdone, Eyman crashed the press event Thursday, maintaining that the voters were lied to.
“Let’s have a vote, everyone in the state,” Eyman urged, “now that they know the truth about how obscenely obnoxious their car tab taxes actually are now, now let’s have a vote. Post-election, people have been slapped with the reality of skyrocketing car tab prices.”
But why should it be state-wide if the only people who voted on ST3 are portions of three counties in the Puget Sound region?
Eyman has argued that Sound Transit is an entity that cannot be defeated, since it can draw its own boundaries in a way that’s politically advantageous, but that the taxing within the district affects the rest of the state.
“However, the engine and the fire and the fury when it comes to car tabs is in the Puget Sound region,” Eyman said. “They’re the ones that got royally shafted. A recent poll by KOMO showed [my] initiative had 85 percent support from this region.”
Eyman kept referring back to this KOMO poll. The results did show that 85 percent of responders voted in favor of the $30 car-tab rate. What Eyman failed to say was that it was a self-selecting poll—in other words, anyone could vote in it—and hundreds of votes were cast from outside Washington state. For instance, votes were cast from Thailand and Russia. Even for those cast from within the state, there was no way to prove what specific region they came from.
As Farrell asserts, those numbers say one thing, but the real scientific proof for the public’s opinion lies in the voting record.
“Why relitigate it?” Farrell said. “He’s taking it to different people, he’s not taking it to the Puget Sound voters who said yes to this. He’s trying to take it to people who may not live in the region, may not care about the region. I think if we are going to be moving forward we need to take our destiny in our hands. We’ve waited for transit funding around here for a long time, and we voted a resounding yes.”
The Seattle Times reports that 70 percent of Seattle voters cast their ballot in favor of ST3.
Farrell was patient with Eyman and thanked him for coming out to talk to her and to bring attention to her mayoral campaign. She, however, remained assertive that Eyman was someone not to be trusted and that this initiative, if passed, could prove detrimental for the future of Sound Transit.
“You need to be really clear about what it means to lose 7 billion dollars,” Farrell said to Eyman. “That means you’re not getting light rail to Tacoma, you’re not getting light rail to Everett, to West Seattle, to Ballard. We need to make sure the voters are really aware what’s at stake. You’re not kicking Sound Transit in the shins, you are taking the agency down. This is a person who has repeatedly gone after Sound Transit and this is a region that cares about light rail and mobility. I am utterly opposed to this and I urge everyone to oppose it as well.