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June 10, 2006

New transportation campaign with new coalition

Posted by David Postman at 6:11 PM

In the News Tribune Joe Turner has the scoop on a new effort "to win passage for a hefty package of transportation taxes in the Puget Sound." The new group is looking for money to get going but already has an interesting troika of leaders, former Democratic Gov. Gary Locke, talk show host John Carlson, who was Locke's 2000 GOP opponent and one of the leading opponents of the last gas tax increase, and Jessyn Schor, who heads a pro-public transit group, Transportation Choices.

There aren't a lot of details yet. Turner reports:

Locke sent an e-mail invitation Friday to executives at Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks, The Boeing Co., Weyerhaeuser, Paul Allen's Vulcan, Wal-Mart, the Seattle Mariners, auto dealers, labor representatives and government leaders to meet with him later this month.

From the e-mail:

"During the first half of 2007 we will mount an aggressive public education effort in support of the proposed investments, before handing matters off to the actual ballot campaign."

This seems to be an effort to broaden the sort of coalition that failed in 2002 to win voter backing for transportation projects funded by an increase in the gas tax. That effort was basically Big Business and Big Labor, with Democratic and Republican political consultants running the show.

That mix doesn't cover enough of the political spectrum. As Secretary of State Sam Reed told me after voters rejected the gas tax in 2002, "Having business, labor, editorialists from the newspapers, and political figures all say we need to do something almost seems to be an open invitation for voters to go the other way."

Bringing in Carlson covers the true anti-tax voice. Big business is not anti-tax when it comes to the gas tax. Carlson was a leader of last year's campaign to overturn the gas tax increase approved by the Legislature. Schor is just as important. In 2002 a lot of transit advocates and environmentalists opposed the gas tax because the projects that would be built with the money leaned too heavily toward asphalt and didn't do enough for alternatives.

The first big test is whether there is money to fund the effort. Then it will be worth watching to see if the group gives meaningful roles to a wide spectrum of people and stays away from tokenism. Carlson can't be the only anti-taxer and Schor can't be the lone green voice.

UPDATE: Here's a copy of Locke's e-mail.

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