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AP: Eyman Launches Signature Gathering For Tolling Initiative

By Andrew Calkins May 2, 2011

The Associated Press has the news on Tim Eyman's latest endeavor, an initiative requiring lawmakers to set all statewide tolls and mandating that all toll revenue be used only on transportation projects. Eyman kicked-off gathering signatures for I-1125 on Sunday, telling that AP "if the government is going to take more of the people's money, the voters have to have the ability to hold the decision makers accountable at the ballot box."

Currently, tolling for projects like SR 520 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is set by the seven-member Washington State Transportation Commission. Back in January, Eyman addressed the commission as they debated tolling rates for SR 520 by arguing that November's passage of I-1053 mandated that all fee increases be set by the legislature. But even after Attorney General Rob McKenna agreed with Eyman on that point, the legislature still handed tolling authority back to the commission (McKenna said I-1053 didn't prevent that move).

More from the AP story:
Eyman said he's starting late in the campaign season and said it might be tough to collect 241,000 valid signatures by July 8 to get the initiative on the fall ballot.

The chairwoman of the Senate's Transportation Committee, Democrat Mary Margaret Haugen, said Sunday the initiative makes little sense. She says toll rates need to be set so the state can pay off its debt, and requiring the Legislature to vote every time the rates need to be changed would be inefficient and unnecessarily political.

The Legislature is only in session for a small part of the year, she noted, so keeping toll-rate authority in the hands of the commission allows the state greater flexibility.

"You have to be able to respond whenever the tolls need to be raised to pay off the debt," said Haugen, of Camano Island. "The commission holds public meetings. It has an oversight committee that meets with them. They do a very good job setting tolls."

On Friday, we reported that Eyman's initiative group, Voter for More Choices—Save the 2/3rds, had raised nearly $50,000 in March (the most recent month reported) including a $25,000 contribution from Bellevue developer and light rail opponent  Kemper Freeman. Eyman told us the money was all going to pay off the group's debt, currently at about $187,000 on the $240,000 loan from Eyman himself.
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