By Jerry Cornfield
Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers from the House and Senate negotiated for four hours in Seattle today but did not reach agreement on a multi-billion dollar transportation package.
Talks will continue Tuesday in Olympia. Representatives of all four caucuses are taking part in the negotiations which have been going on in fits and starts for most of the year.
Inslee has been pressing lawmakers to achieve a deal that can be approved swiftly in a special session this month. He views a transportation package as critical for the state’s economic development and its passage could help persuade the Boeing Co. to build its 777X jetliner in Washington.
But differences between proposals crafted by House Democrats and the Republican-led majority in the Senate appear too great to bridge with the potential of a Boeing decision.
Two significant policy issues divide the two sides. The Senate majority is pushing to redirect sales tax collections on transportation projects away from the general fund and into the roads budget, and to divert dollars from a fund used to clean up toxic sites into making stormwater improvements. House Democrats don’t like either idea.
A third issue is how much of the $10 billion to $12 billion package is spent on bus services, bike paths and sidewalks. House Democrats are pushing to spend far more in these areas than the Senate majority.
Rep. Marko Liias, D-Everett, took part in Monday’s negotiations and left disappointed.
“My personal feeling is I really wish we’d made more progress,” he said. “Things aren’t going in the right direction.”