Editorial | Bridge sales tax issue shouldn't still be one

How many tries will it take before the sales tax on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge construction is exempted?

One of our 26th District legislators, Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, is making another attempt in the 2012 session that began this week.

He’s also making sense when he observes that it’s “strange that the state charges itself sales tax on its own construction projects.”

The sales tax of about $54 million on the bridge was deferred for the first five years after construction was completed, but starting in late 2012 that amount is scheduled to be paid off over the next 10 years.

Adding more than $5 million to annual operating expenses and debt service on the bonds that financed the bridge will draw down a reserve fund below the state-mandated minimum balance — unless, of course, higher tolls are charged to drivers crossing the bridge.

A Citizens Advisory Committee met Wednesday night with state transportation officials to consider options for raising the toll for crossing the Narrows. What that committee ought to strongly recommend is approval of the bridge sales tax exemption that Kilmer, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Tacoma, and others have been pushing for the past several years.

Neither the committe nor the state transportation department can pass legislation, of course, but the citizen advisors should express support for such a measure as a way to prevent, at least for another year, charging drivers an extra $1 or $2 each time they cross the bridge.

Obviously people who use the bridge should expect to pay, but it seems just as obvious that higher tolls shouldn’t be imposed just to pay a sales tax the state is charging itself.

As Kilmer put it: “When projects aren’t funded by the state but, rather, are funded almost entirely by tolls, it’s simply wrong for folks to have to pay a toll to pay a tax.”

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