Tim Eyman is arguing that I-1053 means state transportation agencies no longer have authority to set tolls. From the Seattle Times:
Eyman testified Tuesday that the commission lost the power to set toll rates when his I-1053 passed this month. The initiative says all legislative action raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, and any new or increased fees require majority legislative approval.
That sounds right to me. I’m no fan of 1053, but the plain reading of the initiative is consistent with Eyman’s claim. Tolling rates seems to be considered a “fee” that will require a majority vote of the legislature to implement or change, which means that the funding for the new 520 bridge replacement is now, suddenly, uncertain.
It also means that the already-rocky funding for Seattle’s deep-bore tunnel is uncertain. Currently, the tunnel’s construction depends crucially on fully $400 million of toll fee funding (see page 2), which could require tolls set at more than $8 for roundtrip travel (see page 4). Now, with the passage of 1053, that $400 million cannot be guaranteed unless the legislature reconsiders and votes on the matter, presumably during the upcoming session if plans are to proceed on schedule. (They may also need to take a look at the $300 million promised from the Port of Seattle that I’m told has not yet materialized.)
None of this may sound too awful except for one thing: it will require state lawmakers to re-open the huge can of worms that is the funding package for the tunnel. [Cue the “Jaws” music.] In other words, whether they like it or not, they will once again face the infamous “cost overruns” provision—the backstop measure that saddles “Seattle area property owners” with unforeseen construction bills — and that the authors now say was just an unenforceable hoodwinking of their fellow legislators.
To say that the cost overruns provision is controversial is like saying that it’s uncomfortably warm in hell. I can’t really imagine how the legislature will deal with it this time around. So while Eyman didn’t outright kill the deep-bore tunnel project, he certainly made life more difficult for it.