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TOLLS: Who’s doing the math?

Letter by Tad Browne, Gig Harbor on July 3, 2012 at 10:45 am with 15 Comments »
July 3, 2012 10:48 am

So the Narrows Bridge toll just went up from $2.75 to $4, and the TV announcer said that that was to keep up with inflation and expenses.

OK, let’s see: a $1.25 hike is a 45 percent increase. I guess that means my house bought in 2007 for $200,000 is now worth $290,000. Gas that was $3.50 a gallon should now cost $5.07. Mortgage rates that were 6.2 percent should now be 9 percent.

Expenses? Has the price of labor gone up 45 percent? Concrete and steel?

My two questions: Who’s doing the math? And has tar and feathering gone out of style?

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Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. PumainTacoma says:

    Tad great letter! The fact that for pass holders it has gone from 75 cents to $4.00 makes me question the math. Why is it that pass holders got a huge increase versus those that don’t have passes and pay at the toll booth. If it is an increase why higher for pass holders???

  2. philichi says:

    The bridge was built for around $800 million. The state paid prevailing wage and sales tax on it. The first part added about 1/3 extra to the cost, the second about 9%. Each business also had to pay B and O taxes. Congratulations you are now paying $4 dollars to cross. Don’t worry, it will rise to $6.00 in a few years.

    You can thank your current State Democrats for the extra 40% of this cost. They are the ones that wrote all of the laws. This price will be unsustainable. Fewer will be able to cross at $4 and even less at $6.

    Funny thing about it is State Rep, Larry Seaquest said, on a phone call, that the Federal government made the state collect sales tax on the construction of the bridge. Does anyone believe this?

  3. SwordofPerseus says:

    Hey PTac – $2.75 to $4.00 not 0.75 to $4.00…Mmmmmmmmkay

  4. Why not lower prices, but charge inbound/outbound direction?

  5. SwordofPerseus says:

    BORG-people are crapping their pants now, toll both ways and they might riot. Besides there are no provisions for toll both/RFID scanners in the west bound lanes of HWY 16, pretty costly to retrofit.

  6. itwasntmethistime says:

    I used to cross once or twice a week at $1.75, then $2.75. Then my Good to Go pass ran out of money. I refuse to give the DOT my credit card number and I haven’t been in the harbor during regular business hours to refill the pass with cash. I probably crossed the bridge about 10 times last year at $4 a crossing. Now that it’s up to $5, I’ll probably cross it less than 5 times this coming year.

    Maybe I’m an exception, but the state is getting less and less toll money from me these days, not more. Even at $4 per crossing I stopped hopping over to the Tides for lunch or going to Costco in GH to avoid the Tacoma crowds.

  7. itwasntmethistime says:

    BORG — It won’t add any revenue because 99% of people crossing one way eventually cross back the other way (I’m assuming a relatively small number of people drive around through Shelton or take the ferry back across.) Same revenue but increased expense — that will just make it worse.

  8. Ok, sorry bad idea! Just trying to lower prices.

  9. truthbusterguy says:

    obama must tax the middle class if he wants to increase revenues but he will lie to you and say it ain’s so.

    To increase the amount of revenue the state needs to tax/toll the “Good to Go” users. They are the higher percent of people crossing so to raise the money they want they have to tax/toll the majority of the users.

    They don’t get it that they will icrease tax/toll the crossings until no one crosses the bridge any longer. Then waht will the democrats do?

    WASDOT waste billions of $$$$$’s and nothing changes but tax/tolls go up.

    Thanks Seaquist and Kilmer for such a mess.

  10. philichi says:

    Those that are upset about the extra money to cross should look at the big picture. Your state is broke. So much money now goes to state employee pension plans etc, there is hardly any money left to run the state. They will now nickel and dime you for everything. The best advise is to vote the current party (democrats) out of office. They are the ones that got us into this mess. Than begin correcting every line in the budget, including pension and health care items for state workers. Than lower the price of everything, including bridge tolls. Until you are willing to do this, don’t complain about the $4 dollars. In most cases you got what you voted for.

  11. commoncents says:

    Here it goes again…What is it with the pension plan thing?

    Philichi – do you have anything to gain if the state were to get out of the pension method of retirement contributions and moving to a defined contribution method? Any conflict of interest here at all?

    You made the claim…now it’s time to back it up. How much of our state’s budget is going to pension plans. Please…do tell. Heck, I’ll give you a hint…The total contribution in actual dollars (not a percentage of budget) is less in 2011 than it was in 2010.

  12. philichi says:

    commoncents,
    nope why would I have anything to gain? I am in the financial business. I know enough about the current plans to know that they are not sustainable. Washington state is not alone. There are many more. Do you think that because I am in the business, I would like this business?

    Ok I change my mind. I do have something to gain. I live here, so do my children. I hate to see the state that I live go bankrupt.

  13. Bandito says:

    You can thank Tim Eyman for the tolls. He’s the one who financially handcuffed the DOT (with your help). Maybe Tim will conjure up another (voodoo) initiative and we can all vote to stop the tolls.

    BTW, There’s nothing in this TNT article about inflation (your red herring), Mr. Brown. http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/05/21/2153260/narrows-bridge-toll-hikes-in-effect.html

  14. commoncents says:

    Yes, Philichi, I do think that you would like to see 1000’s of your neighbors all of the sudden have 401k plans and become more in need of the financial services that you and your employer provide. 1000’s more state employees wanting to roll their money over into an IRA or an annuity that *gasp* pays a monthly benefit for life. And who is just waiting to be their to support those people? Why their friendly financial advisor. So yes, it is in your best interests financially to see this happen.

    So tell me…you say you know enough about the current plans to know that they are not sustainable so which plan is unsustainable? The TRS1 and PRS1 plans that are closed to new members and have been for quite a while are the only ones that are not fully funded. The TRS2/3 and PRS2/3 plans are hybrids and rely on employee contributions equally as much as employer contributions. Employer funding percentages for those two plans are about 4%. The spending on pensions is about 2 billion for 2011 which is about 2.7% of the total budget. Of that 2 billion…only half was paid for by the state. The other half was employee contributed and thus was just a pass thru.

    And other states are in the same position? Washington State is ranked 5th in the entire united states in terms of funding status. The other states are envious of our plans, their status, and their ability to sustain earnings at a level to keep our Employer Funding ratios low.

    Is it perfect? No…but it only takes a few tweaks. One of which is to remove the automatic benefit increase function. That alone will alleviate a lot of the unfunded liabilities of TRS1 and PRS1. Getting rid of the pensions though? stupid and not in the best interests of the state or the employees.

  15. philichi says:

    commoncents: I am sorry, I am not in the position to able to take on new clients. I only deal with a select group of families.

    However, I will be glad to break to news to you. The plans that you are mentioning expect a constant return of between 5% and 8% in order to remain solvent. I don’t know which our state is counting on. The Obama recovery is making growth rates far lower than that. The S and P 500 grew about 2% in 2011. Because plans like these usually contain treasuries and other fixed income, the growth rates will be very low. The 10 year treasury is only yielding 1.6%.

    Therefore, the low growth rate coupled will larger retirement obligations will begin to over stress your plan. The plans will eventually collapse under the strain. Like San Diego and other areas, voters will be forced to lower these benefits to keep the state solvent.

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