Inslee says county’s own lawmakers to blame for lack of roads funding

ARLINGTON — Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t come to Arlington on Wednesday to apologize for giving Snohomish County short shrift in his proposed $12 billion transportation package.

Rather, he came to tell a small group of civic and business leaders the reason why: It’s your lawmakers’ fault.

Only seven of the 21 state lawmakers representing Snohomish County told him they would pass a package and raise revenue needed to pay for it, he said to those seated around a conference table at Universal Aerospace.

“We still have legislators from Snohomish County who have told us they want projects but they are not willing to pay for the revenue package it takes to finance them. That just doesn’t cut the mustard,” Inslee said.

He declined to name names.

“So Snohomish County has a lot of work to do to convince the legislators to actually put their shoulder to the wheel and tell us they are going to step up to the plate to finance transportation,” he said.

Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, a former state lawmaker, agreed with the governor.

“We really do need to put pressure on our legislators to act in a unified fashion,” he said to the group that included fellow Councilman Terry Ryan and Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert.

Sullivan elaborated after the meeting.

“That’s been a personal frustration of mine in the past of getting both sides of the aisle unified to support a (transportation) package,” he said after the meeting. “I suspect the governor may have given us a low amount of spending in his package to get us in Snohomish County to lobby our legislators. That’s my guess.”

Inslee’s plan calls for spending statewide $12.2 billion over a 12-year period on roads, bridges, ferries and expanding bus service. It would complete a new Highway 520 floating bridge and a new Mukilteo ferry terminal. It also opens the door for Sound Transit and Community Transit to seek funding for expanding light-rail and bus services in Snohomish County.

It earmarks roughly $82 million for projects in Snohomish County. More than half, $45.4 million, is for a new interchange on Highway 526 at Hardeson Road in Everett to serve the Boeing Co. and surrounding aerospace firms.

By comparison, there’s around $3.9 billion for King County projects. That includes $1.4 billion for the new floating bridge linking between Seattle and Bellevue and $1.3 billion for improvements to I-405 between Bellevue and Renton.

When Inslee released his plan, business and community leaders reacted with disappointment at what he allotted to Snohomish County projects. So, too, did lawmakers working to pass a transportation package.

“This early in session, all proposals should be considered starting points and the governor’s transportation proposal is no different,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee. “The transportation needs of Snohomish County are critical to not only our community but the state as a whole.”

An effort led by Economic Alliance Snohomish County produced a list of 23 transportation projects with a combined price tag of roughly $1 billion. They figured to get more of those projects supported by the governor because Snohomish County’s economy is rebounding faster from the recession than nearly every other county.

Wednesday’s meeting, the second time Inslee’s met with a group of county leaders this month, seemed a ripe opportunity to press the governor to defend his decisions.

Instead, participants seemed to quietly agree with the governor’s assessment that they need to focus on motivating those in the county delegation to get on board with something this year.

“We can’t leave this legislative session without a transportation package,” Tolbert said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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