Monday, April 28, 2008

Just When You Thought You Couldn't Be Squeezed Any Harder

The always fiscally minded government officials in the Seattle area are scheming again. This can only mean one thing: citizens beware. These officials have noticed a problem - there isn't enough tax revenue to fund all the highway and transportation projects they have been failing to do for the past 20 years. Of course, for the people in Washington's capital (Olympia, WA), and the ultra-liberal King County, more revenue is not a problem, just increase the burden on residents.

After pumping up gasoline taxes to one of the highest in the nation, the happy politicians in Seattle still aren't satisfied. No wonder, the gas prices have been curtailing demand leading to declining revenues...not to mention higher costs for completing the construction work already underway. It never occurred to them to lower taxes thereby spurring more economic growth and, consequently, more tax revenue. That would be a travesty and they would look too much like conservatives - perish the thought.

The latest scheme is to put tolls in place on all the roads that are in need of expansion or repair. That may not sound too bad until you hear the proposed price tag. A round trip venture into the city from any one of the suburbs would cost you upwards of $15 to $25. Furthermore, there is no limitation on what streets can be tolled. I may have to pay a toll just to back out of my driveway. Sure, that's not what they intend now...but just wait until their revenues fail to hit their projections (which will happen because they are driving commerce and recreation out of the city); then we'll see the tolls increase and the number of roads tolled rising along with the price. In addition, there is nothing specifically requiring the tolls collected to be used expressly for the benefit of the road being tolled. Your money could go to a barely used light rail system, more buses that have nothing to do with the route you're being tolled on, or any other myriad special project tickling the politicians' fancy at that moment. More than likely, half of the funds would go to feasibility and environmental impact studies (based upon recent history). Of course, by law, 1% will go to the arts (but I'm sure the artwork at the new Seattle sewage treatment plant is very nice, and well worth the price tag).

Aside from the pure economic insanity of such a move, there is also the cost of implementing the system. What tolls pay for the tolling system? What is the recovery period for such a system? What is the maintenance and staffing cost?

They plan to toll drivers by requiring cell phone tracking or car-mounted GPS. Ahh yes...nothing like big brother monitoring your every move and billing you for it. While they're at it, why don't they just go ahead and send you a couple of speeding tickets for that 30 seconds when you weren't paying attention and you blew over the speed limit. Oops! You accelerated faster than the environmentalists allow and there are some big fines headed your way for wasting all that gas and plummeting our planet in to further warming peril.

It is time the citizens of Seattle and Washington state stand up against the government tyranny running amuck. Otherwise, businesses and individuals will flee the area in search of a location where they can afford to thrive.


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