County: Local group to oppose road tax
SHANNON THE OLYMPIAN
OLYMPIA, WA - 6/3/02 -- Thurston County
environmentalists have formed a political action committee to
oppose Referendum 51, the transportation tax package that will be
on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The No on 51 Committee, led by former Olympia City Council
member T.J. Johnson, filed papers with the Public Disclosure
Commission. It's the first functioning opposition group to
register, although friends of former Republican gubernatorial
candidate John Carlson have filed paperwork for what, as yet, is a
leaderless second movement opposed to Ref. 51.
Ref. 51 would raise $7.7 billion statewide over 10 years,
mainly paying for megaprojects in central Puget Sound, by raising
the 23-cent gas tax by 9 cents per gallon. It would add a 1
percent surcharge on vehicle sales and increase truckers' weight
Though it also would funnel some of the money into transit,
rail and passenger ferry programs, Johnson and other critics such
as Olympia's Carnegie Group say it will add lanes of pavement that
won't ultimately fix traffic woes.
"No. 1, it's bad for the environment. No. 2, it's too
expensive. No. 3, it won't work. And No. 4, it's not fair,"
Johnson said, cataloguing his complaints against the measure the
Legislature placed on the ballot.
"I think we're disappointed there is a group in Thurston
County that is going to be opposing this much-needed effort,"
said Tracy Newman, spokeswoman for Yes on Referendum 51, which
plans to organize its forces locally in June.
"We believe that Ref. 51 is necessary to fix the problems
that exist currently in our state," Newman said. "The
people of Washington have a project list in front of them so they
can see the direct benefit of passage of this referendum."
"Every county, every city will receive a benefit if Ref.
51 is passed," she said. "And if Ref. 51 does not pass,
there is not another solution to fix this problem."
Johnson's decision to start a political committee grew out of a
public meeting two weeks ago in Olympia where "there clearly
was enough interest from enough people and groups with enough
reasons that we thought this was viable," he said.
No on 51 Committee has a Web site, noon51.com, and will start
adding material soon, he said.
It will begin as a local grass-roots organization that could
expand statewide as environmental groups begin taking stands on
"We are hoping similar efforts emerge statewide,"
Johnson said. "Whether we fall under the same banner or in a
looser coalition, we very much want to work with others."
Meanwhile, the Yes on 51 campaign will continue raising money
for a multimillion-dollar fight. Endorsements by major groups are
piling up, including the Washington Federation of State Employees
based in Olympia, Newman said.
Despite recent headlines saying he would head a second
opposition campaign dubbed Citizens for Accountability and
Results, Carlson said flatly that it isn't true. Carlson, the GOP
candidate for governor in 2000, said he is happy working late
afternoons as host of the "Commute with Carlson" show on
KVI radio and only will use airtime to attack the initiative.
"Instead of asking a simple question, 'how can we spend
what is necessary to actually reduce traffic congestion,' they did
what they always do in Olympia. They gathered all the interest
groups and said, what can you live with," Carlson said of
Ref. 51's genesis in the Legislature. "It's a whole lot of
money for very little, if any, return to reduce congestion."
Who will head up the CAR effort is unclear, according to Brett
Bader, a political consultant with Madison Communications. Bader
and another Madison employee, Jeff Davis, decided to get things
started after hearing Carlson and another talk-show host tell King
County Republicans that someone needed to create an organization
opposing the referendum, Bader said.
"Hopefully it will prosper and grow and become a major
thing," Bader said.
Also taking sides
In related developments, the No on Initiative 695 campaign also
has filed as a pro-51 organization so it can pass along about
$11,800 of funds left over from the failed 1999 fight against
repealing car taxes, said John Giese, a consultant from the
And the Carnegie Group, an organization that advocates ending
the government subsidy of developers, has gone on record as
opposing Ref. 51, Chairman Ken Filak said.
The group wants to see a statewide impact fee collected on
construction projects that will benefit from expanded highways,
"For the last 10 or 20 years, we have been stuck in old
patterns of thought ... where we have subsidized this growth. We
have not asked growth to pay for growth," Filak said, arguing
that a better solution to the traffic woes can be found in the
Legislature next year if people are told the truth about highway