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Dori: Beware of gov. officials who sell ‘mileage tax’ as good for the poor

The toll lanes on 405. (WSDOT)

It’s going to be the fight of our lives here locally. Officials in our state are still moving to try to toll every single road in the state through the euphemism of a “mileage tax.”

They ultimately want to charge you based on where you drive and at what time you drive. Going into downtown Seattle could be $25 during rush hour with this mileage tax. Maybe it will be as expensive as a highway in Virginia that charges as much as $45 at peak hours to drive into Washington, D.C. They want us out of our cars, whatever it takes.

I heard a guy on the Candy, Mike, and Todd Show earlier this week, Washington State Transportation Center Director Mark Hallenback. He tried to pitch the idea that tolling roads helps the poor even more.

When government takes this approach, I find it to be incredibly offensive. I know what it is like to be really poor. I know the panic when you think you don’t have enough to cover everything. And for him to suggest that $20 a day just to get to and from work is a good thing for those who are struggling to get by is the epitome of elitist condescension.

Todd: Tell me I’m wrong — if you drive in toll lanes, you’re hurting poor people

He said that the wealthier people who use the 405 toll lanes in the middle of the day — when traffic is light and the toll lanes don’t save you all that much time — effectively subsidize the program. The wealthy people tend to use the toll lanes frequently, whereas the lower-income drivers who use them only tend to do so rarely. But, the poor people who drive in the toll lanes do it because they have to — maybe they will lose their job if they are late. So he argued that the poor people benefit more per trip than the wealthier people.

Does any of this convoluted logic make sense to anyone? Tolling roads does not help the low income. For a lot of people, their family life does not allow them to take mass transit. Now the government is trying to force them into the toll lanes because it has engineered more congestion in the other lanes so it could have its precious revenue-generating toll lanes. But low-income drivers cannot afford to pay $10 per trip, even once a week. That is $500 to $600 a year in tolls — a significant burden for working-class people.

None of this should even be happening in the first place because right now, the 405 toll lanes are illegal. The state had two criteria to meet to keep the toll lanes past their trial period — the toll lanes had to pay for themselves and had to have a speed of at least 45 miles per hour at least 90 percent of the time. They are meeting the financial requirement, but not the speed one. However, the attorney general’s office changed the language of the bill so that the lanes were still allowed to operate having just met one of the two requirements.

The problem is that the government is moving toward getting transponders in everyone’s car through the euphemistic Good2Go program. Then they will be able to tax all of us for driving in any lane of 405 and I-5 during rush hour, not just designated toll lanes.

I design my life so I don’t have to pay a toll. I don’t have a Good2Go pass in my car. There are times when I could save 10 minutes driving to the Eastside via 520, but I’ll go around on I-90 to avoid the toll. I choose not to give the state of Washington any more of my hard-earned money.

But make no mistake and have no doubt — the eventual goal is to toll every single road. I want you to beware. When they are trying to sell toll lanes on every single road through the Puget Sound region as a mileage tax, and when state officials are trying to peddle this nonsense that tolling is actually good for poor people, you need to be extremely wary.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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