Throughout social media, the collapsed I-5 Skagit River bridge has a new name – The Tim Eyman Memorial bridge.
Political websites have been sharing various images of the collapsed bridge span, spawning parodies directed at anti-tax initiative guru Tim Eyman.
“Someone suggested we should blame anti-tax terrorist Tim Eyman, which I was kind of impressed with. I thought the anti-tax terrorist turn of a phrase was quite funny,” he says.
Eyman is laughing it off, but people who’ve watched transportation funding shrink for projects in Washington are serious.
The Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI), a Redmond-based liberal think tank, is among those calling Eyman out following last week’s bridge accident and collapse.
Since 1999, Eyman’s initiatives, and the Legislature’s reinstatement of his initiatives, have “wiped out billions in funding for public services, including ferries, highways, roads, bridges, and mass transit,” says NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve
He says between trying to kill Sound Transit links a couple of times and wanting to require that 90 percent of the state DOT budget be spent on roads, “there is no one in Washington who has done more to sabotage the effort to ensure the Evergreen State has good roads and safe bridges than Tim Eyman.”
“The power of one person, it is just kind of silly isn’t it,” Eyman responds. “Reality is the voters have sent a very clear message that they want tax increases to be a last resort. They voted for a lot of our initiatives, they’ve rejected them too, so it’s not like we’re some kind of guru or anything.”
Eyman claims the legislature “jumps at the chance to raise taxes” and they will try to exploit the Skagit Valley accident because “they are desperate to take more of the voters’ money.”
The Daily Kos, a political blog that publishes news and opinions from a progressive standpoint, says Eyman has been “championing initiatives for decades to cut vehicle excise taxes and license registration fees, and generally defund state government and public infrastructure.”
The website added on posts through Pinterest and other social media outlets “In honor of his (Eyman’s) life’s work enabling the disinvestment in infrastructure that facilitated this bridge collapse, please feel free to share this image far and wide.”
Eyman points out that the car tab tax was something lawmakers approved. Voters approved the $30 car tab fee, but the courts struck it down.
“The only reason it ever became law is because an overwhelming number of legislatures in the house and the senate and (former Washington Governor) Gary Locke signed it into law,” Eyman says. “Legislators are looking around they rarely choose to look in the mirror.”
Governor Jay Inslee supports an $8.7 billion transportation budget that puts money toward maintaining state roadways and continues spending on existing big-ticket projects.
But he vetoed some sections, including a proposal to spend $81 million planning a replacement bridge that would extend Interstate 5 over the Columbia River.
The governor approved that preliminary budget before the bridge collapse into the Skagit River.
Now Eyman says lawmakers are looking for ways to pass a transportation budget that is stalled in Olympia. He calls it “ghoulish and crass” to try to blame him in any way for the I-5 bridge collapse.
“An accident is an accident and it’s kind of hard to peg that on anybody else except the driver of a big truck driving at 15 feet on a 14 foot bridge,” he says. “There’s clearly a lot of people that are trying to exploit this bridge accident in order to push tax increases.”
By LINDA THOMAS