5 things Democrats didn’t say about their $17B transpo plan

Here’s what’s happening on Day 31 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 31 of 60

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 9 — It’s Wednesday, the first day of the second half of the 2022 session.

Let’s talk COVID. It’s still here. It’s not going away. But mask mandates are disappearing in parts of the country. California drops theirs next week and Oregon next month.

And in Washington? Officially, Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t quite ready.

“We are continuing to track cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” read a statement issued by a spokesman late Monday. “We are optimistic that these numbers will continue to decline in a way that will let us revisit the mask requirements in the near future.”

Inslee holds his weekly news conference at 2 p.m. today.

Expect verbal acrobatics worthy of an Olympic medal on why it’s too soon. Next week maybe.

The fine print of a $17B plan

Democrats’ transportation package spends lots of money. It also makes new policy.

Here are five points House and Senate Democrats didn’t make about the content of Move Ahead Washington.

1. It’s pay-as-you-go. Without bonding of a gas tax hike, there’s no locked-in revenue stream for the duration. Federal dollars run out in five years. Cap-and-trade receipts look certain now, but change happens. That $2 billion contribution from the general fund (or reserves?) is seed money and will go quickly.

2. It recycles dollars. Annual transfers of $31 million are required for 13 years starting in 2026. That money will come from sales tax paid on projects funded through the package.

3. It expands use of traffic-enforcement cameras near schools, parks and hospitals, and requires cities to split a portion of fines 50-50 with the state. The language mirrors legislation which died in the House transportation committee.

4. It sets the stage for higher tolls on I-405 and Highway 167 express lanes. It wants the state transportation commission to “reevaluate options at least every two years” to ensure cars average 45 miles an hour at least 90% of the time in peak travel periods. Toll rates are the commission’s purview.

5. It upholds an Inslee veto that the Legislature is challenging in court. When Inslee signed the low carbon fuel standard bill in May, he crossed out paragraphs tying the start of enforcement with passage of a transportation package containing a gas tax increase. In December, the Legislature sued the governor, alleging the veto of a subsection exceeded his authority.

With Move Ahead, Democrats are moving on. They’ve cobbled language from the clean fuel standard law, absent the linkage they wrote last year and are fighting in court to retain.

Pencils down

Washington’s new legislative and congressional district maps are finished.

On Tuesday, the state Senate approved roughly 75 small adjustments to lines drawn by the Redistricting Commission. Since the House did the same last week, the once-a-decade process is completed, barring legal challenges.

While the House acted with near unanimity, the Senate didn’t. Its 35-14 vote just cleared the two-thirds requirement for passage.

Members of both parties had sharp words in the floor debate.

Democrat Sen. Rebecca Saldana of Seattle criticized commissioners for creating a map for legislative districts that may blunt the voice of Latin voters in violation of federal voting rights laws — the central argument of a pending lawsuit.

Republican Sen. Brad Hawkins of East Wenatchee blasted commissioners for carving up his 12th District in ways roundly opposed by residents. His newly drawn district will stretch across the mountains into Snohomish County.

“They produced a final product that didn’t in any way reflect public comment from my district,” he said. “I’m pretty disgusted with what happened.”

You can find the final maps here.

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