It is important that we call this proposed toll across I-90 what it actually is. It is a new tax. It is a tax on our movement to pay for a bridge that we don’t use. I understand that the state needs to pay for the Evergreen Point bridge and that it can’t just raise taxes without getting the voters upset. So this new proposed toll is an end run around the Eyman initiative. It will allow a new source of revenue to pay for a needed expense. It is not fair to a certain constituency and will have severe consequences for those who live and work on Mercer Island. We are being taxed just for trying to get home. The Island is not self-sufficient. We have to go off the Island to go to a hospital or see a movie. Each time we leave or come back, we will be paying an exit or entry tax. It would be like asking people to pay a tax when they start their car or open their garage.
One reason why Mercer Island is a desirable place to live is because it has easy access to Seattle. A toll will diminish the desirability and will result in the lowering of property values for those who now own homes on the Island. Also, many people who work on the Island come from off Island. We are talking about the school teachers, the city workers as well as those who work in the stores. Those people will want an increase in pay to compensate them for their added costs. Eventually those of us who live on the Island will see our taxes go up to cover these costs.
In addition to the heavy burden that the added tax will put on the Island residents, there will be additional costs to people who own businesses in Seattle and on the Eastside. If I have to pay a $3 toll to go to Seattle and another $3 to come home, I will not be doing much shopping in the Seattle stores or going to the theater as often. This will end up shrinking the economy, which will hurt the amount of money that the state receives in sales tax. There will be lots of unintended consequences and none of them will be good.
I recognize that the state needs money to pay for expenses and to keep up our roads. I am just saying the state needs to be fair about how it collects the money. The proposed toll tax is not fair because it imposes an undue heavy burden on Mercer Island residents. A much more fair way would be to raise the gas tax, or lower the gas tax but impose a mileage toll on all Washington residents and charge everyone 1 cent a mile for all the miles a person drives in a year. Each person would get his mileage checked before he could get his auto license renewed and the next year, he would pay the mileage toll when he renewed his license. That way, every driver would pay based on how much he used the roads. I am not saying I want a new tax but if there has to be more revenue to pay for roads, everyone who uses the roads should pay equally and this proposed toll tax doesn’t do that.