I just got back from a holiday weekend in Brownsville, Oregon. Two days with no cell phone, no email, no blog, and no internet. I didn’t even read a newspaper.
But though I tried to celebrate the failure of I-864 by spending a couple days forgetting Tim Eyman and his self-serving initiatives, the five-hour road trip each way was grim reminder of what could become of Washington if we were to allow Tim to lead us down the government slashing path that Bill Sizemore carved through the heart of our neighbor to the south.
The first thing I noticed upon crossing the border was the relative state of disrepair of large sections of Interstate 5 compared to the Seattle to Portland stretch. The speed limit was constantly jumping between 50 and 65, depending on the quality of the road surface, or the semi-permanent construction zones that seemed unchanged from last year’s trip.
Not that the limits seemed to matter; cars were speeding with impunity. During each two-hour Oregon leg of my round-trip journey, I did not see a single state trooper. A couple local sheriffs had set up revenue generating speed traps, but this hardly seemed a deterrent.
Now I know many people would consider the dearth of radar guns a blessing, and I freely admit that I generally drive 5 to 10 miles over the limit at highway speeds. But it is a mixed blessing at best when I’m traveling with my daughter in the car, and some asshole in an Expedition nearly runs me off the road while weaving through traffic at 90 miles-per-hour.
Local residents confirmed my anecdotal observations, and the cuts weren’t just limited to road maintenance and state troopers. From underfunded public schools to hospital closures to a host of other public services we take for granted, quality of life has declined significantly for many families in communities across the state.
Tim Eyman wants us to demand that our state and local governments do more with less, but Oregon is a harsh lesson in reality. When you cut revenues beyond the bone, governments will do less with less.
In the end, that’s the biggest reason why I-864 failed to generate support: voters understood that they weren’t just being asked to cut taxes… they were being asked to cut essential services.