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On Other Blogs Today: Pontoons and Payday Loans

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By Erica C. Barnett February 28, 2013



1. The Daily News, in Longview, argues that the state shouldn't pass a transportation revenue package unless it benefits "our local communities"—meaning that approximately every dollar that people pay in to the package should come back to the area in which it's paid.

TDN (based in Cowlitz County) goes on to argue that that's a reason smaller counties should support transportation tax increases—Wahkiakum County, for example, receives $2.23 in state payments for every dollar it contributes in transportation taxes. 

Arty pontoon rebar image via WSDOT on Flickr.

2. Not that it matters, apparently: According to the Spokesman-Review, state senate Republicans are poised to block any transportation revenue package, on the grounds that the state shouldn't increase the gas tax until it fixes problems like broken pontoons for the new 520 bridge.

The problem with that thinking, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee responds, is that it's short-sighted: Cracks in the pontoons shouldn't become "a crack in confidence" that makes the state deadlock against badly needed transportation proposals, he said.

3. KING-5 confirms that hopeful arena investor Chris Hansen made a $30 million down payment on the Sacramento Kings, a further confirmation that—despite efforts in California to retain the team—the relocation of the Kings (AKA the new Sonics) to Seattle is more or less a fait accompli. 

4. The Atlantic responds to a proposal to add a tax as high as five percent to bicycle sales in Washington state (compared to a 0.7 percent car tab tax), calling the bike tax "an  important starting point in an inevitable discussion about sharing road costs."

If anything, we should be having a conversation about why drivers don't pay their fair share. The problem with that argument, of course, is that bicyclists (and transit riders) already share road costs—the overwhelming majority of cyclists already own cars and drive (meaning they pay all the taxes "drivers" pay), and those who don't still pay nearly half of the cost of roads and freeways they don't even use. (And cyclists who do ride on public roads certainly don't produce the wear and tear of cars, SUVs and trucks hundreds of times their weigh).

If anything, we should be having a conversation about why drivers don't pay their fair share. 

5. It's rare that we agree with arch-conservative online rag Sound Politics, but even a broken clock is right twice a day: In response to news that the 520 bridge could cost $100 million more than expected because of cracked pontoons, they write, "It's not the seemingly constant need for or the social value of new government projects and programs that is so infuriating. It is the consistent low-balling of the cost estimates, especially when trying to get voter approval for the taxes and/or bonds needed for funding." Hear, hear. 

6. At the Everett Herald, the liberal Economic Policy Institute's John Burbank argues against proposed legislation that would create a new type of high-interest payday loans, calling it "legal extortion." Back in 2010, the state passed legislation limiting the number of payday loans companies like MoneyTree could issue to customers in a single year, and reduced the interest rates they could charge. The new legislation would allow loans of up to $2,000, with effective interest rates of 200 percent or more.

MoneyTree CEO Dennis Bassford, Burbank points out, lives in a multi-million-dollar mansion on Mercer Island—the same community that has been complaining that it can't afford to pay a dollar or two in I-90 tolls to help fund the reconstruction of SR-520 between Seattle and the Eastside.  

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