[NWPT54]So where does Dino Rossi stand on the “No New Gas Tax” initiative?
I asked Kirby Wilbur that question this morning, because I believe it is at the heart of one of the more disturbing and dishonest rhetorical themes of the I-912 campaign. (You can listen to the clip here.) Long before Judge Bridges handed down his stinging rebuke of Rossi’s frivolous election contest law suit, both John and Kirby were busy harvesting anger over the disputed election in an effort to whip up public support for their initiative. Listen to the callers and comment threads on conservative talk radio and the right-wing blogs, and this theme is repeated again and again… that repealing the transportation package and the gas tax hike that pays for it is intended to “send a message” to Democrats in the Legislature and the Governor’s Mansion.
Problem is, this wasn’t simply a Democratic bill… its details were extensively negotiated with the Republican leadership, a number of whom personally voted for the bill, along with many of their caucus colleagues. This was a bill that simply could not pass without GOP support and complicity. Indeed, no less a vicious, partisan hack than GOPolitburo Chair Chris Vance himself defended the bill in an email reply to an angry rank-and-file Republican:
In this state, the gas tax is 100% dedicated to state highways. Many Republicans, therefore, have supported increased gas taxes on the theory that they are user fees and are needed to make crucial transportation improvements vital to our economy.
- The Transportation section of our platform does not include language opposing increased gas taxes.
- The Senate bill includes a performance audit of the DOT, which we strongly support.
- Roughly 1/3 of the Republican members of the Senate voted in favor of this bill.
- In 2002, the delegates to the State Convention voted to keep the WSRP neutral on Referendum 51, the proposal to raise transportation taxes.
Why would the Republican leadership support an increase in the gas tax? Because this package is about safety, because it is about competitiveness, and because it is the consensus of our state’s business leaders that without it, our transportation woes will get a helluva lot worse before they start getting any better. Take a gander at the businesses, business groups and chambers of commerce supporting the No on I-912 campaign, and then answer me this: what do Boeing, Microsoft, Washington Mutual, and Weyerhaeuser know about our state’s transportation infrastructure that John and Kirby don’t?
The Republican leadership supported this bill not out of hypocrisy or political dealmaking, but because they are genuinely pro-business and pro-growth, and because their allies in the business community convinced them that it was in the best interest of the state’s economy. The Republican leadership supported this bill because our state’s “competitiveness” was at stake, a loaded word that candidate Rossi wore thin during stump speeches throughout his campaign. So at a time when the anti-tax true believers are parading the Martyrdom of Saint Dino as an icon of their gas tax repeal initiative, isn’t it time Rossi himself came down from the Sammamish Plateau and took a public stance on this issue?
I have been assured by those who know and admire Rossi, that he is a straight talker who can be taken at his word, and so I can only assume that his refusal to openly support I-912, means that he does not support it. We have $250 billion worth of critical transportation infrastructure that is slowly being frittered away due to deferred maintenance, and it is hard to imagine how a “Governor” Rossi could live up to his promise to make WA state more competitive without having signed some sort of gas tax increase into law. His silence on this issue seems to me to be a clear indicator that he has no alternative to offer.
Of course, I could be wrong.
There is no question that Rossi is a candidate for governor in 2008, so if he is indeed a straight talker, and if he in fact supports repealing the gas tax increase, then we should expect him to come straight with voters regarding his break with the Republican leadership, and explain how he would address these needs differently than Governor Gregoire. That is the least we should expect from a wannabe “agent of change.”
As for John, Kirby and the rest of the “No New Gas Tax” campaign, I would hope that they would actually ask Rossi for his support, before implying his endorsement.