Tolls: Transportation’s New Opioid

Opioid addiction is a problem in our state. People are sucked in all the time, needing more and more to get their fix with disastrous outcomes.

Our state is headed down that path, and we need an intervention. After a 21-month study, we now know tolling State Route 167 will bring in more money, but it won’t necessarily relieve congestion. In fact, what those managing our state’s infrastructure are discussing reveals there is no incentive to reduce congestion at all. They’ve had a little taste of what’s possible with tolls and want more. They seem to be slipping into the addiction of easy money and disastrous outcomes for the people funding their addiction. Just look to Seattle, where local politicians want to take more of your money to enable addicts, buy them heroin and build taxpayer-funded shooting galleries.

This scenario is exactly what some want to inflict on us when we’re just trying to get to work or take our kids to school. Once they go down this path, there is no turning back – they’re hooked. The recent editorial by the Tacoma News Tribune regarding tolling State Route 167 is emblematic. To finish a much-needed project, we will tie our hands on any future congestion improvements by bonding toll revenue.

Existing tolls are already $10, but we all know that won’t be enough. Soon they’ll need a bigger fix. There are plans currently being considered that would extend toll lanes to Puyallup and raise tolls as high as $50 per trip to pay for projects further north. You’ll be taxed to drive on the road you already paid for. To make matters worse, some decision-makers want to bond against toll revenues, making sure that we’ll never escape gridlock, or the insatiable hunger for more of your money.

The goal is to use tolls to pay for congestion-relief projects, but at the same time bond that money that will be linked to declining revenue. Those managing bonds have been clear: If we bond against tolls, there is nothing we can do to reduce congestion that might affect revenue because that money is already spoken for. If the plan is successful, there is no incentive to get clean, so to speak.

I have sounded alarms since joining the state Senate that our transportation system needs help. We cannot raise taxes fast enough to keep up with increased fuel efficiency, rising construction costs, and lower gas-tax receipts. The state needs a fix and its only solution is to implement more tolls, and up the dosage.

That is why I introduced legislation that funds transportation using the money you already send to Olympia. Relying on existing sales tax on motor vehicles, it is an inflation-linked and sustainable source of revenue to meet our growing transportation demands. Using the same
methodology to sell the last gas-tax hike, my plan creates thousands of family-wage jobs, bolsters state and local coffers, and reduces our reliance on the gas tax, or new schemes to tax you off the roads.

I urge people to say enough is enough, we have to rein in spendthrift and unaccountable agencies. We need to show some tough love and make sure we break the impending cycle of addiction.