Transportation is a top priority for the 2015 Legislature. Washington State’s industries and commuters need a transportation package—the Seattle Times points out that “farmers and manufacturers need sound roads and bridges to transport goods to and from ports.” Additionally, “drivers are stuck in horrid congestion that takes time away from their families.”
Yet, Democrats have failed to pass a major package since 2005. Last year, Democrat legislators managed to obstruct a transportation package proposed by Republicans in the State Senate.
During the 2014 legislative session, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus presented a transportation bill that Senate Democrats—led by Sen. Tracey Eide who was co-chair of the Transportation Committee—killed for purely political purposes. The MCC’s transportation package included necessary reforms that would work to restore public trust in the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) by improving accountability and transparency. Unfortunately, Democrats refused to accept, or even compromise on, the reforms.
In fact, Eide actually admitted to preventing the transportation bill from coming to a vote because she needed “leverage” for her own package, which involved raising taxes to fund new road, transit and pedestrian projects without any WSDOT reforms. She publically announced, “I get a package, [then] we’ll hear reforms. … It’s the only leverage I have.”
Prior to the holidays, Jay Inslee proposed his transportation agenda. As Shift extensively reported, our green governor would like nothing more than to punish polluters—meaning those who dare drive vehicles that are not electric—by implementing strict, untested extreme green policies, including a cap-and-tax scheme and his fuel mandate. Discounting Inslee’s transportation “solutions” as risky, the Seattle Times insists that the Legislature’s “final transportation deal includes some reforms to rein in costs for taxpayers, as well as assurances that any new taxes would not hurt the economy.”
State Sen. Curtis King, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, took Inslee up on his recent challenge for legislative transportation leaders to present “real solutions” that would “meet our emissions limit.” In a recent op-ed, King presented four approaches that “would produce a direct and measurable reduction in carbon emissions without endangering our economy”—exactly what the Times insisted the Legislature must do. King wrote that any transportation package should,
- Pursue common-sense reforms in conjunction with a balanced transportation revenue package.
- Create a tax incentive for employers to convert commercial truck and car fleets to alternative fuels.
- Create targets for converting the state ferry fleet to liquid natural gas.
- Find ways to promote and diversify low-carbon energy sources such as nuclear and hydropower.
King’s counterpart in the State House does not agree with his approach to transportation reform and responsible spending. Rep. Judy Clibborn, the Democrat chair of the State House Transportation Committee, wrote an op-ed of her own in today’s Seattle Times. Taking the stance we have come to expect from Democrats, Clibborn declared that a “significant transportation issue this legislative session will be authorizing Sound Transit to pursue its new long-range plan.” Of course, Clibborn is referring to granting Sound Transit a higher taxing authority in order for the agency to pursue its latest $15 billion dollar plan—a plan would certainly continue Sound Transit’s long pattern of broken promises.
Clibborn attempts to frame granting Sound Transit a higher taxing authority as a “matter of local control.” She writes, “The Legislature would simply be allowing the people of Puget Sound to decide at the ballot box if they want as much as $15 billion in new public transportation investments…” Clibborn’s argument is sure to be copied by other Democrats in the upcoming legislative session. The argument would carry more weight if Sound Transit had an elected rather than appointed board. However, due to the fact that voters do not have any “local control” of who spends their hard-earned tax dollars—let alone zero opportunity to keep the agency accountable for all its broken promises—the argument falls short of convincing.
As Shift wrote, hopefully Clibborn—and legislative Democrats—will spend a little more time talking to King about his ideas, and less carrying the water for the extreme agenda items of the far left. That will be the path toward a sustainable and accountable transportation package this legislative session.