A majority of Spokane County voters gave their support to Tim Eyman’s latest anti-tax initiative strictly limiting vehicle registration fees to $30 a year, according to initial election results Tuesday.
More than 46,000 people voted to impose the limitations, and 36,000 opposed Initiative 976, which opponents had warned will imperil necessary roadwork across the state by cutting $4.2 billion in transportation funding.
Typically, about half the total ballots in Spokane County elections are counted on election night, with the rest tabulated over the next week.
Statewide, the results were still coming in from the various counties, but I-976 was passing with more than 55% of the vote – more than 100,000 votes. Five rural counties had not yet reported their results as of 10 p.m.
If the voting trend holds, it would be the third time voters have approved an Eyman measure aimed at restricting vehicle registration fees to $30. The previous two attempts, which occurred more than 20 years ago, were rolled back by the Legislature and courts.
In Spokane, a city-imposed $20 car tab would go away, as would the work it promised in coming years. From 2012 to 2018, the city raised between $2 and $3 million a year through the program for chip seal or grind and overlay work on 78 miles of residential roads. To reinstate the fee, voters would have to approve it.
The North Spokane Corridor, which has been promised to be complete within a decade, is also in jeopardy, according to state lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli, both Spokane Democrats.
Stripping $700 million out of state and local transportation budgets each year for the next six years will start a “money grab” by lawmakers to fund whatever project in their district is endangered by the measure’s passage, Riccelli said.
“There is no easy way to cut $4 billion from the state’s transportation budget,” Billig said Tuesday in a text message. “It will be a painful process for our state and our city as the negative impacts of delayed or cut projects, decreased maintenance and reduced services will be felt by just about everyone.”
Eyman celebrated his win a half-hour before results were posted, after an afternoon waving signs to Bellevue motorists.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.