Judy Clibborn is the Democrat chair of the State House Transportation Committee. In that role, she usually has a front-row seat on matters involving transportation funding in the state, though ultimately it is her boss, House Speaker Frank Chopp, who makes the final decisions for the Democrat majority.
In the past, Clibborn has occasionally shown a willingness to work in a bi-partisan fashion, which is how transportation improvements have traditionally happened in our state. Unfortunately, in today’s Seattle Times, Clibborn falls back on partisan talking points and intentionally ignores the Democrat Party’s resistance to confront its labor union and extreme environmentalist campaign donors to pass a transportation package in recent years.
Clibborn could have gotten this year’s funding effort off to a positive start, by using her editorial to admit the truth about what happened during transportation negotiations in the last legislative session – that Senate Democrat Tracey Eide refused to (as the co-chair of the Transportation Committee) to negotiate with her Republican colleagues because she needed “leverage” to raise taxes. Senator Curtis King repeatedly tried to engage Eide – a roadblock who has thankfully retired from the legislature – and House Democrats in negotiations, but was just as repeatedly told “no.”
Clibborn correctly points out that her colleagues need to pass “legislation that makes our transportation system more responsive and responsible,” and not just raise taxes. But she conveniently ignores that while the bi-partisan majority coalition in the Senate was proposing several reforms to make the State Department of Transportation more accountable – and not just handing out new tax dollars – Speaker Chopp would not let House Democrats consider any reforms not approved by his caucus’ major campaign donors – organized labor and environmental special interests.
Jay Inslee has recently entered the transportation fray as well, though not in a good way. As the Seattle Times points out, Inslee’s “latest proposal to pay a portion of a $12.2 billion package over 12 years by charging larger emitters for the right to pollute is imaginative, but untested and risky. Lawmakers must ensure a 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.”
Hopefully, Clibborn will spend a little more times talking to her Senate Transportation counterpart about his ideas, and less carrying the water for Chopp and the Democrat campaign donors. That will be the path toward a sustainable and accountable transportation package this legislative session.