POINT OF VIEW: The problems with I-976

  • Wednesday, October 30, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

TAXES TAKE A cut out of our personal and business resources and of course no one likes paying them.

Small business owners especially loathe taxes, since the profit margin of businesses in rural communities is typically quite low.

But we all recognize that taxes are a critical necessity in certain areas, such as to fund education for our children, salaries for our police and military forces, and the infrastructure for our local transportation system.

As a long-time business owner in Sequim and now as executive director of the Clallam County Economic Development Council, I would like to highlight a few elements that may not be readily obvious to the voters on the Olympic Peninsula.

First, if I-976 passes, then what?

Critical infrastructure projects will be postponed or delayed, which potentially creates unsafe situations.

The state Legislature will then have no choice but to implement other taxing mechanisms to fund transportation projects.

Our state’s local roads and streets have over 160 aged bridges that need replacement both in urban and rural areas.

If I-976 passes, construction projects that are already in process will be halted, resulting in wasted funds and putting our already challenged transportation system further behind.

Currently, there are two taxing methods that are being considered in Olympia.

One option is to give authority to local municipalities to tax their districts to fund the local transportation needs.

That would mean higher sales taxes or property taxes for us locally and it would be decided by our local officials.

Local control is great, but currently we receive a larger portion per capita of state transportation funds than our urban counterparts because we have a lot more roadway per person.

If we do collect taxes locally to fund our road systems and transit, we will end up paying more to achieve the same outcomes.

The second taxing option is to tax drivers based on the miles they drive.

People in rural communities, like ours, typically drive twice as far, and make half as much money as people that live in urban centers. That is clearly not an ideal path.

If I-976 passes, the alternatives created will very likely end up costing us more, not less, to fund our local transportation needs.

We need to consider the potential impacts within our own county.

Clallam Transit System provides public transportation to our citizens, including those with disabilities. According to the Office of Financial Management, $3,418,099 is at risk of being eliminated from Clallam Transit’s budget, which means the current level of transit service would not be sustained.

According to state officials, the critical replacement of the Lower Elwha Bridge that connects Forks to Port Angeles, and the East Sequim U.S. 101 Corridor project would both likely be negatively impacted.

With fewer transportation tax dollars circulating, programs that municipalities and school districts rely on will see funds directed away from them in order to fill the gap elsewhere.

These programs include Transportation Improvement Board funds, Safe Routes to School, and Pedestrian/Bike funds, all of which have benefited our local cities and county.

I agree a better solution could be sought.

We should press our legislators to address the car tab inequities, but not with I-976.

It’s a sledgehammer when a scalpel is needed.

Vote no on I-976.


Colleen McAleer is the executive director of the Clallam Economic Development Corp., and a Port of Port Angeles commissioner.

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