The absence of a transportation-revenue package was a humongous sin of omission -- the kind of sin that penance (even a boost to higher ed) can't absolve. While regional labor, business and local governments coalesced around Rep. Judy Clibborn's proposal for $7.8 billion in expenditures over 12 years, Republicans in the state Senate balked. (The Republicans in the House likewise balked, but they're outnumbered, 56-42.) The outside push was bipartisan, the inside game was all R-vs.-D politics. Cry "gas tax" (or any tax, for that matter) and let loose those-are-fighting-words' Republicans. Nobody likes taxes, but ignoring a crumbling infrastructure exacts its own cost.
Senate Democrats -- Sens. Nick Harper and Steve Hobbs, in particular -- worked hard for a transportation plan. Both understood that landing the Boeing 777X was linked to a package, that what doesn't get done telegraphs a stark message.
Another budget killer was a Columbia River Crossing to replace the current I-5 span. Oregon earmarked $450 million based on Washington ponying up the same amount. Republicans were upset because it could accommodate light rail and would need to be at a lower height. The punt means the project lost $850 million from the feds. If this has a familiar ring, recall the Forward Thrust bond proposals to build a regional transit system. Voters said no in 1970, and with it $900 million in federal support -- three-quarters of the cost -- that instead went to Georgia.
"I am extremely disappointed that our legislative partners in the Washington State Senate failed to address the clear and present safety and economic need for this essential I-5 bridge," Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement.
On the other end of the infrastructure spectrum, north Puget Sound scored. Thanks to the political savvy of Rep. Hans Dunshee, chair of the House Capital Budget Committee, $10 million was secured for the design and planning of a University Center expansion. A WSU/Everett is coming together and leaders such as Dunshee and Rep. Mike Sells deserve major credit.
Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson was elated.
"For students, families and employers this investment by the Legislature is truly the keystone for a solid foundation and clear pathway to higher education expansion in Everett, Snohomish County and the region," Stephanson said. "To our Snohomish County legislative delegation, Washington State University, Everett Community College and the University Center, well done! This is a turning point for our community."
Politics is imperfect. As the aerospace sector harrumphs at Washington's transpo inaction, it still needs to wager on the Pacific Northwest, and the best educated workforce anywhere.
More Editorials Headlines
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.