Lynn Peterson is Jay Inslee’s Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary. She is an energetic advocate for bike lanes – her focus when she worked in Oregon before joining the Inslee team in 2013. But, she is still grappling with understanding that her job here is primarily to make it easier for cars and trucks to move on Washington’s roads.
Peterson demonstrated that she still has a way to go in learning what matters in transportation (beyond her favorites, bikes and transit), as reported this week by the Yakima Herald.
To anybody paying attention, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) has been clear since Peterson was appointed that the public had lost faith in WSDOT’s ability to meet its minimum responsibilities – building (and repairing) roads on time and under budget. That needed to change before the public would accept a gas tax increase to improve our transportation system. “Reforms before revenue” was the saying that everybody was hearing.
Evidently, that very simple approach was lost on Peterson. She told the Herald that, “I think one of the seismic shifts is we’re not talking about WSDOT reforms anymore.”
That head-in-the-sand philosophy by Peterson and her fellow Democrats has held up a transportation improvement package for the last two years. The person leading Inslee’s transportation department must not have read the bills that have been re-introduced in the Senate this year calling for reforms to make WSDOT more accountable and efficient. These bills have been submitted once again because Speaker Frank Chopp and his Democrat-controlled House of Representatives won’t consider bills that might offend the special interests that fund their campaigns (like state employee unions).
Perhaps Peterson should read the article that her inaccurate quote appeared in, as the writer pointed out, “Senate Republicans are still calling for more reforms.”
Even more distressing, Peterson glosses over the failure of the Inslee administration to negotiate a transportation package over the last two years, suggesting she thinks “people are trying to find out where that happy medium is that they couldn’t find before.”
The reality is that legislative Democrats, like former Senate Transportation Committee co-chair Tracey Eide, demanded a raise in taxes before consideration of reforms to a broken and inefficient WSDOT. If Peterson wants to find a “happy medium,” maybe she could try fixing her department and then asking for more tax dollars.