Last week, state House Democrat leaders announced they are putting the brakes on transportation package negotiations until a state budget deal is reached. The announcement frustrated state Senate Republicans, as many believed they were close to coming to an agreement on a much-needed transportation package.
Republican Sen. Curtis King, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, pointed out that House Democrats appeared more than willing to hold our state’s transportation needs—and, by extension, the Senate Republicans consumer protection measure—hostage to their tax-increase demands. It wasn’t the first time Democrats used transportation as a tool to achieve their bigger government agenda, and it likely will not be the last.
However, since House Democrat took their state capital gains income tax off the table, the situation has changed. The hostage situation is over or nearly over (Democrats may chose to continue using a transportation package as a tool to close certain tax “loopholes”). The question is, will Democrats continue to fight back a much needed transportation package?
Senate Republicans’ consumer protection measure will, inevitably, continue to meet opposition from Inslee and the far-left. As Shift reported, the consumer protection measure would keep Inslee from using an executive order to implement his gas-price raising fuel mandate scheme. The transportation package’s consumer protection measure is critical to preventing Inslee from bypassing the state Legislature and implementing his extreme green agenda by executive order. For that reason, Inslee and his fellow Democrats have labeled the safeguard provision a “poison pill.”
It is critical that House Democrats come to a full realization of the importance of passing a transportation package. Republican Sen. Curtis King, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, warned that if a package isn’t passed this year, it will likely be two years before the Legislature takes up transportation funding again. That’s because next year is an election year and it will be harder to get lawmakers to vote on a gas tax.
Democrats would benefit from taking a cue from their counterparts in Oregon. In Oregon, Democrats appear to have picked the public’s need for road improvement over extreme “green” special interests (much to the ire of the far-left). Republican and Democrat lawmakers came to a compromise on transportation funding that included repealing Oregon’s fuel mandate in favor of other carbon-reduction measures. The agreement would also raise Oregon’s gas tax to generate an estimated $200 million a year for road repairs and other transportation projects.
In February, Oregon’s state Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a bill that removed the sunset provisions on the state’s current fuel mandate. Democrats chose to do so amidst the still developing scandal involving now former Gov. John Kitzhaber and the unethical influence extreme environmental organizations have on the policy-making process. Thanks to the compromise, Oregon voters will now have the opportunity to decide whether or not they approve of the scandal-tainted legislation.
Republican lawmakers in Washington State’s Legislature are asking for a lot less. The consumer protection measure is merely a means to ensure that Inslee does not bypass the Legislature and ram through his fuel mandate by executive order. It’s a means to ensure Washington’s working families do not pass a $1 plus per gallon of fuel on top of the gas tax Republicans compromised on.
Despite how Inslee may or may not react to the consumer protection measure, as Shift has stated before, the path forward is quite clear—if Democrats are willing to compromise. Lawmakers 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.
Our state needs a transportation package. It’s time Democrats stop playing politics with transportation. It’s time they re-open negotiations, accept the consumer protection provision and pass a transportation package.