April 15, 2008
Myth Busting

If you consume much news on the Governor's race, you'll find a theme seeping in to the aggregate collection of reporting and opinion on the topic: Democrats and their allies earnestly insist Dino Rossi should offer more specifics on the campaign trail.

This notion got some discussion during yesterday's blogger radio segment on KUOW (start at the 23:20 mark). Bluntly, the notion is hooey. Democrats are deflecting to avoid discussion of their own record in Olympia.

A read of Rossi's kickoff speech shows a level of policy specificity usually unheard of in the vague rhetoric of early campaign messaging. Moreover, the issues section of Rossi's campaign website has for months listed specific ideas and solutions on the key topics of education, transportation, public safety, and taxes & spending. Yes, they're not fifteen page white papers, but they are a meatier foundation than that from which typical Evergreen State campaigns are often built.

Furthermore, today Rossi has begun the process of adding depth to proposed solutions to the problems Olympia seems fundamentally incapable of addressing. His transportation plan is bold and aggressive. Perfect? No. But in given the warring factions of our transportation policy debate it is most definatley a step in the right direction. Moreover, since transit is largely a function of local governance, a plan for the state should by nature be roads-focused.

Predictably, the anti-road, pro-transit zealots are steamed. Those folks would be better served focusing on Sound Transit's attempts at a re-do in 2008. Simple fact: the state has to build, maintain, and sometimes - gasp - expand roads.

Here's where Rossi's plan moves the ball forward most effectively: improvements and/or new construction for US 2, Highway 9, the south end of 405, Highway 167, the Cross-Base Highway, the I-5 bridge over the Columbia, and the Northern Spokane Freeway. These projects address long-overdue needs in growing population centers. The lack of state success in addressing such projects and improving congestion has done much to feed into the generally resistive mood of the voting populace. A plan that seriously seeks to address such projects - seemingly forgotten by Democrats in Olympia - is inherently a good thing.

To be fair, there are some flaws. Many a tooth had to be pulled to reach an exceedingly tenuous agreement between Seattle and the Eastside for a six-lane 520 bridge (rather than four). Eight lanes is almost a non-starter. Likewise, the notion of tunneling on the Seattle waterfront to replace the Viaduct is not exactly a risk-free proposition in terms of timely completion and on-budget delivery in the wake of Sound Transit's past tunneling problems. And, shifting some of Sound Transit's East King County funding from transit to roads has roughly zero chance of getting past the King County-centric, Democrat-dominated Legislature.

But, this is transportation. We argue about it in the Puget Sound area. That's what we do. More importantly, one can see a path clearer than our current gridlock where Rossi's plan serves as a starting point for negotiations with a Democratic Legislature that might actually get something done.

In the end, Rossi's is a serious plan, taking real care to address important projects apparently beyond the capacity of status quo state government to address. Contrast that to Governor Gregoire, who as Jerry Cornfield describes is "pretty proud of her record on transportation."

Well, with a fix for 520 remaining up in the air, a replacement for the Viaduct still undecided, major road improvements & maintenance increasingly an afterthought (remember this story?), and a ferry system that is approaching finger-in-the-dyke status it is unclear what there is worthy to be "pretty proud of."

Meaning, if Democrats demand to talk specifics on the issues voters care about, they might not like the ultimate result of that conversation.

Posted by Eric Earling at April 15, 2008 09:12 PM | Email This
Comments
1. From: Tim Eyman, co-sponsor of I-985 "ReduceCongestion.org"

Opponents of Rossi's plan are saying the same things about his plan that they said about I-985 when we first filed it in January. It's important to highlight some important points:

State Auditor Brian Sonntag's performance audit on the DOT, released in Oct 2007, said if the state adopts his recommendations, it'll result in a $3 billion economic benefit to the state (see below). Our initiative for this year (I-985 "ReduceCongestion.org") and Rossi's plan follow the state auditor's recommendations, ours goes with the things that'll help the most in the short-term, his more the long-term. I-985 uses 15% of vehicle sales tax revenue, Rossi's uses 40%. Most common comment we get from voters while getting signatures for I-985 is "it oughta be 100%". Voters clearly want their vehicle taxes to go to transportation.

Besides the $3 billion economic benefit from implementing his recommendations, Auditor Sonntag has done 9 audits so far, making 434 recommendations resulting in $3.2 billion in potential savings for state government. He's providing state government with a roadmap to reform government to accommodate any transfer of vehicle sales tax revenues toward transportation.

October 2007

Washington Department of Transportation - Managing and Reducing Congestion in Puget Sound (file size 5MB)

Audit results

Recommendations: 22

Economic impact over five years: $3 billion in economic impact to citizens, businesses and the environment.

http://www.sao.wa.gov/reports/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1000006.pdf

Here's a quick summary of I-985:

I-985 accomplishes the following goals:

� illustrates the public's support for making reducing traffic congestion a top transportation priority
� opens up carpool lanes to everyone during non-peak hours
� requires local governments to synchronize traffic lights on heavily-traveled arterials and streets
� clears out accidents faster with expanded emergency roadside assistance
� uses a portion of vehicle sales tax revenue (15%) for these policies
� removes the profit motive for red light cameras
� replaces the percentage spent on public art to instead go toward reducing congestion
� institutes critical taxpayer protections on future tolls
� and empowers the State Auditor to monitor the implementation of the initiative's policies to ensure compliance.

http://www.ReduceCongestion.org

Posted by: Tim Eyman, I-985 co-sponsor, www.ReduceCongestion.org on April 15, 2008 09:17 PM
2. Problem with Rossi's reprogramming Sound Transit's East King County funds, from transit to highway lanes, will be the ST voters - they just will not approve it.

And of course the elephant in the Rossi living room, which he conveniently ignores, is the size of the hole he would create in the state General Fund budget. Shifting General Fund revenues to highways comes at a cost, one that he is so far silent on.

Posted by: Roger P. on April 15, 2008 10:40 PM
3. With a budget that increased 33% in the past biennium, I don't think our state would miss the 40% of auto sales tax that Dino plans to draw from for bonding purposes. After all, it does make just a little sense to put car sales tax money into transportation. The size of the hole? How about the size of Gregoire's deficit? The budget has been growing at 10 times the rate of population growth and we've seen no improvements in education, public safety, health care or TRANSPORTATION. (wait, she did give a bunch of middle income families government-subsidized health care - that has to count for something, right?) The elephant standing in the queen's bedroom is the black hole of her leadership put on display in almost every policy area. It's a gaping hole and Dino is proving that he has what it takes to fill it. Congestion relief is what the voters want, not a second attempt from Sound Transit.

Posted by: Casual Observer on April 15, 2008 11:08 PM
4. Great summary Eric. I encourage the enviro-nut / Mass Transit Utopians to scream loudly and continue their anti-roads crusade. That's rope that they will eventually hang on, because most people still use cars and could care less about transit fantasies.


Posted by: Jeff B. on April 15, 2008 11:28 PM
5. So Rossi has now come out in support of a tunnel to replace the viaduct.

I'm wondering if the Soundpolitics folks will now all start attacking Rossi the same way they attacked Gregoire, Nickels and others for proposing the same thing.

I'm guessing not, but thats the joy of being a political blogger: Its only bad when the other side does it.

Posted by: shawnkempsbartender on April 16, 2008 06:32 AM
6. Rossi's transportation plan would have credibility if he'd also show what he'd cut from the state budget to fund all the things he says he'd build.

It would also have credibility if he showed how much traffic congestion he'd reduce with the $15 billion he wants to spend, otherwise it is just another typical politician with an empty promise.

I read the plan and it looked more like a giant campaign brochure than anything real. I suppose that's to be expected in a campaign. But it seemed to spend more time trying to start a fight by contrasting the Rossi approach while spinning the Gregoire approach.

If we're going to get anything done in transportation, that sort of thing has got to stop, anybody who really wants to lead should know that.

I am disappointed in the Rossi campaign.

Posted by: redflag on April 16, 2008 06:37 AM
7. Spot on 'redflag', 'giant campaign brochure' pretty much sums it up. Our current Governor will maintain office and hopefully will focus on transportation next time around in earnest.

Posted by: Duffman on April 16, 2008 06:43 AM
8. "Our current Governor will maintain office and hopefully will focus on transportation next time around in earnest."

Because "your" Governor failed so miserable the first fours years, why not give her four more??? What the kind of endorsement is that Duffman? The, she's a bum but she's OUR bum endorsement?

Posted by: pbj on April 16, 2008 06:51 AM
9. Its just funny that after four years all Rossi has is a knock-off Gregoire plan, complete with new taxes to support it.

And I cannot wait for the howls of angry protest from the low-tax fans supporting Rossi, the same ones that have savaged Gregoire and Democrats for proposing a new road on the waterfront for years.

Posted by: shawnkempsbartender on April 16, 2008 07:14 AM
10. Well you can certainly see that the Democrats are worried when the Public Outreach Coordinator for Sound Transit is burning the Midnight oil to respond to this thread. I am sure he will have the troops out in force today, to try and maintain any challenges to his organizations funding sources and most importantly for him, his job.

Posted by: Smokie on April 16, 2008 07:16 AM
11. barkeep, I couldn't help but laugh at your comments. You posed a question for other readers, you answered that same question for the readers and then you gave an opinion on your answer.

That is dialogue?

Posted by: swatter on April 16, 2008 07:16 AM
12. Look 'peanut butter & jelly' I can't wait to see your comment(s) AFTER the election. :)

Posted by: Duffman on April 16, 2008 07:16 AM
13. The one overlooked transporation area, and the one which the voters have claimed should have priority over all others is not being addressed properly: Bicycling and Pedestrian infrastructure.

As a member of the Kent Bicycle Advisory Board I was forwarded a link to the latest draft for public comment by our chairman. Everyone should read it:

RFC WA State Bicycle Facilities and Pedestrian Walkways Plan


The survey on page 21 is especially telling:

...70 percent of Washington residents surveyed support an increase in spending to improve bicycling if current funds are re-distributed, with 42 percent saying they strongly support this.

Not 6 lane roads in downtown Seattle.

Not a choo-choo train through a derelict area.

But actually building sidewalks in Kent and Bothell is what the people want.

And roads with bicycle lanes.

Posted by: John Bailo on April 16, 2008 08:10 AM
14. I don't agree with Eric that Rossi has offerred details. If Rossi was on top of the ball, he would specify what he plans to cut in the state budget instead of the wishy-washy response that we will make up the rest of the needed funds through some nebulious cut of state operarting budget in other places. If that isn't a cop-out, I don't know what is.

While Rossi does address roads needs, he also cow-towed to Seattle voters, who aren't going to vote for him anyway, by including Nichol's tunnel plan for the Viaduct and replacing 520 bridge utilizing some state tax moneys. I won't buy any plan that doesn't fund these two boondoggles by tolls alone. If tolls alone was sufficient for the new Narrows bridge, then tolls are sufficient funding source for the Viaduct replacement and 520 replacement. If Rossi really wanted to lead, he would propose this. CG sure won't because it would tick off her Seattle base.

Posted by: tc on April 16, 2008 08:15 AM
15. I always get a kick out of Democrats who demand - as in this case - demand that the GOP point out specifics as to what would be cut in the budget.

This is also known as a Turkey Shoot. As soon as Item A is identified as being on the block, they whip up the troops and start wailing about seniors being thrown out into the streets and babies starving while living in cardboard boxes.

And once enough outrage is created, any thought of the original plan is scrapped. And that's precisely what they're doing here.

So, let's try this - Democrats, please identify EXACTLY what taxes you're going to raise to address long-term transportation problems in this region.

And while you're at it, tell us what taxes you're going to raise to fill the bow wave deficit you've created the last four years. Because it's either one or the other. Cut or tax.

So, let's hear it.

Posted by: jimg on April 16, 2008 11:15 AM
16. Uh, Jimg @15,
Taxes have not went up the last four years, except for areas where voters may have approved local taxes.

Also, what deficit are you talking about?
Here is the current state budget balance sheet.

Here is the current proposed expenditures.

Rossi proposes $7.7B in reduced spending, plus taking $2.4B in revenues away. With a state revenue of $29.9B per year, where is Rossi proposing this money come from and how fast? This is a lot of diverted money, especially for Seattle boondoggles like a tunnel to replace the Viaduct and tolls only partially paying for 520. I don't have a problem with building both as long as those who use it pay tolls for the entire cost. I have to pay tolls to cover the entire cost of the new Narrows bridge, even though the Penisula residents voted against the funding package. Seattlites, if they want their boondoggles, should have to pay tolls for their projects. It is simply fair. Why should Eastern Washington have to pay for a tunnel in Seattle, so Seattle can get its waterfront back?

Posted by: tc on April 16, 2008 12:51 PM
17. Maybe the "D"'s should first identify where we spent 33% more money and what we got for it. And maybe could answer why we need thousands of new government workers. Did the workload really increse that much?

And John at #13, so 70% of those surveyed support bike transit, where was that survey taken, at the local bike shop? Give me a break.

Posted by: RJK on April 16, 2008 02:20 PM
18. As expected, not a peep out of the Rossi crowd. I guess its OK for new taxes and a waterfront tunnel when a Republican proposes it.

Posted by: shawnkempsbartender on April 16, 2008 06:20 PM
19. I'm FOR new taxes for Seattle's waterfront. A tax paid by King County ONLY.

It's your backyard......YOU fix it!.

But people from outside King County come into and use King County.

Yes we do (when we can't avoid it) and we pay your higher taxes when we buy stuff and eat at your restaurants.

Otherwise, keep your hands out of my pockets.

Posted by: Sam Adams on April 17, 2008 12:15 PM
20. As a teacher, I would very much like to hear more of his education plan. Right now it's merit pay and platitudes, and that's not going to get it done.

Posted by: Ryan on April 17, 2008 04:54 PM
21. We already tried it the Democrat way. That is all we have had in the governor's office for the past 30 years! They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. By that definition, the voters of Washington State are insane in their choice of Democrats for the highest exective office in the state.

It has been SEVEN YEARS since the Nisqually Quake and Democrats still haven't even started on a replacement. The governor is supposed to provide LEADERSHIP for the big decisions, not jsut throw it back at the peoplee and duck the responsibility. Rossi has experience working with EVERYONE to LEAD them to a solution.

Time to try something new for a CHANGE!

RE-ELECT ROSSI. THis time we'll fight like they did in UKRAINE if they try to steal the election!

Posted by: pbj on April 18, 2008 01:08 PM
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