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Council can't find support for R-51

If a statewide transportation referendum passes in November, it will do so without the backing of the Bainbridge Island City Council.

A deeply ambivalent council Wednesday tabled a resolution in support of R-51, finding no will to endorse the measure, and no particular will to oppose it.

“I don’t know what the solution (to transportation problems) is,” council chair Michael Pollock said, “but I don’t think this is the solution.”

Before the council was a resolution of support for Referendum 51, which would increase various gasoline and vehicle sales taxes to fund statewide transportation improvements.

The referendum, which will appear on the November general ballot, has earned the endorsement of business and labor groups, the Kitsap Association of Realtors, and 23rd District representatives from both sides of the aisle, Beverly Woods and Phil Rockefeller.

It has run afoul, though, of environmental interests that say it would provide too much for highway construction, and does not include sufficient provisions for mass transit and other alternative transportation.

Council members discussed the degree to which the package would benefit Kitsap, specifically Bainbridge Island. Among other improvements, monies would support construction of new auto ferries, and establishment of a foot-ferry run from Kingston to Seattle.

But Pollock called the gas tax regressive, and estimated that Bainbridge residents would be shipping $800,000 to $1 million in tax dollars off the island each year at the pump.

He also argued that state legislators have failed to provide leadership in punting the issue to the voters.

Speaking in support of the resolution, and the referendum itself, were councilmembers Norm Wooldridge and Lois Curtis.

“I would argue that Kitsap is coming off better (with R-51) than some other counties that are getting money,” Curtis said. “Even if you have buses running on highways, you still have to have highways under the buses.”

Councilwoman Christine Nasser Rolfes said that after reading literature pro and con, she was still so divided on R-51 that she wanted to vote neither for nor against the resolution supporting it.

Ironically, had the measure been in support of a state income tax, it apparently would have found broad support from the council – several members spoke in favor of its inclusion in statewide tax reform.

The resolution was tabled with the understanding that it would not be revived for further consideration, with Curtis and Wooldridge opposed.

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