Today marks the 47th day the Democrat-controlled state House has failed to take action on the bi-partisan transportation package passed by the state Senate back on March 3rd. The House’s continued failure to move on the transportation package comes as budget talks have stalled due to Democrats’ refusal to vote on the taxes essential to their 2015-17 spending plan. With the 2015 legislative session scheduled to wrap-up on Sunday, April 26 and stalled budget negotiations, it is essential House Democrats—at the very least—act on the state transportation package. It’s time that Democrats prove they are capable of making a deal.
House Democrats cannot continue to ignore the fact that Washington State needs a transportation package. Commuters and businesses require reliable transportation improvements, and they’ve waited long enough for the state Legislature to act. Democrats have held our state’s transportation needs hostage to their tax-raising demands for far too long. It’s time they accept the fact that any transportation package must be bi-partisan. Senate Republicans proved they are willing to make tough compromises in order to meet urgent transportation needs—their bi-partisan transportation package passed with the support of seven Democrats. House Democrats must do the same.
Democrat House Speaker Frank Chopp—along with Jay Inslee—must accept the reality that Democrats no longer exclusively control Olympia. Chopp cannot continue to expect the pre-2012 state of affairs, when he and his fellow Democrats pushed forward every agenda item they received. Since 2013, there has been a state Senate run by the Majority Coalition Caucus that is committed to passing a state budget that lives within our means.
The bi-partisan state Senate package includes a gas tax that is almost identical to the size of the tax passed by House Democrats two years ago—that’s part of GOP leaders’ willingness to make compromises. As the Seattle Times recently pointed out, the size of the tax is common ground. Now it’s time for Democrats to give a little as well in order to avoid last year’s fate when negotiations over a transportation package broke down.
The path forward is quite clear: let the people—or their chosen representatives—decide on Democrats’ favored agenda items. A transportation package could be achieved if each side placed their trust in the citizens of this state. For Republicans, that means allowing Sound Transit to seek a $15 billion dollar tax increase via a ballot measure next year. For Democrats, that means accepting Republicans’ consumer protection provision that would oblige Inslee to bring his fuel mandate forward as legislation, not through an executive order—voters should not have to face an additional charge of $1 or more at the fuel pump.
Pressure on House Democrats to accept the bi-partisan transportation package is mounting. You can check out how Keep Washington Rolling, statewide coalition of labor, business and environmental organizations and community leaders, is doing their part here.