Opinion

Tollpayers would get a little help from Kilmer bill

Compared to the $900 million it’s already costing to build a second Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the billions more the state plans to raise by boosting gas taxes to pay for mega-transportation projects in other parts of Washington, $45 million doesn’t seem like so much.

But if a bill sponsored in the current legislative session by fledgling 26th District Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) can actually save tollpayers that much over the next 20 years or so, maybe it will at least help keep the tolls at $3 a little longer.

That’s something, anyway.

House Bill 1865, currently working its way through the Legislature, would relieve the project’s private-sector builder, Tacoma Narrows Constructors, of the necessity of paying sales tax when it purchases building materials and hires workers.

TNC, of course, figured the sales tax into its projected costs when it bid the job in the first place and expected to pass the charge on to the tollpayers, who would essentially wind up being billed twice — once by the builder and once by the state, which funnels the sales tax revenue into the general fund.

As if it weren’t enough for the tollpayers to pick up the tab for the entire bridge, with no help from Washington’s transportation budget, the state also wanted to use the project as a cash cow to generate $45 million for other, unrelated public programs.

Meanwhile, tollpayers would be getting no exemption from the statewide gas tax being discussed to pay for huge transportation projects — including the Seattle Viaduct and SR-520 Bridge in Seattle.

Longtime Narrows Bridge opponent Randy Boss is absolutely right when he calls the $45 million savings to tollpayers in Kilmer’s bill “crumbs, when we should be getting the whole loaf.”

Still, when you’re as hungry as Narrows tollpayers are, even a few crumbs can help a little.

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