2021 Washington Legislature, Day 40 of 105
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OLYMPIA, Feb. 19, 2021 — Good morning. Happy Friday.
Let’s start with a bit of a scoop.
A major deal is coming together to settle sticky policy fights over a low-carbon-fuel standard and cap-and-trade program while securing funding for a new transportation package and removal of hundreds of culverts as required by a federal court order.
A key piece gets attention today. It is a revised version of Gov. Jay Inslee’s cap-and-invest bill dealing with carbon emissions. Originally, the money generated — roughly $1 billion per biennium — went into a Climate Investment Account for unspecified emission reduction efforts.
Now it specifies that $650 million go into an account to fund transportation projects each biennium through 2037, topping out at $5.2 billion over 16 years. After 2038, half of each year’s proceeds must continue to go into this account.
Sen. Reuven Carlyle of Seattle is steering this bill through the process. He’s holding a work session on the changes at 8 a.m. today for his Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee.
Meanwhile, those changes should please Sen. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens because it provides a revenue stream for the “Forward Washington” transportation package he’s pushed the past couple of years, without success. And without the governor’s backing. That’s a second piece.
Theoretically, it will make Hobbs happy enough to allow the low-carbon-fuel standard bill to get out of the Senate Transportation Committee. He’s the chairman and has kept it bottled up. There’s a third piece.
Two other pieces are expected to surface next week. They are intended to raise $3.1 billion for culverts and $1.5 billion for water projects in the Chehalis, Columbia and Yakima river basins over the next decade. One is a proposed bond, which would require voter approval. The other is an annual parcel tax of around $15 for ag land, $40 per home and $60 per commercial property. Sens. Mark Mullet, a Democrat, and James Honeyford, a Republican are pushing these.
To be clear, nothing is settled. And there are as many convolutions as participants in the negotiations. But if the players can put these pieces together, Inslee could finally record victories on two climate change policies that have eluded him his entire tenure.
At 1 p.m. today, Inslee plans to sign the bill which disperses $2.2 billion in federal funds across the state to defray costs of the ongoing response to the pandemic and to restore a semblance of normalcy to public life.
Under the legislative schematic in House Bill 1368, hundreds of millions of dollars will be dropped into various buckets and poured into efforts to administer vaccines, resume in-person classroom instruction, reopen shuttered businesses, assist those who can’t make rent or afford child care, and provide food to needy families.
And another batch of federal aid could arrive before the session ends. A $1.9 trillion federal aid package is expected to passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden by mid-March.
Also today, the governor was supposed to get his second vaccination shot. But weather-related delays in the delivery of doses to this state are expected to push back the timeline.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler is peeved because his requested bill banning use of credit scores in setting rates got seriously edited, and credit scores are now not going away. Gutted is the word he used in a Thursday news release. He blamed the insurance industry.
“Once again, the insurance industry is asserting its muscle in Olympia,” Kreidler said. “This insurance industry designed this bill to make sure you stay with your current company. That’s a great incentive for the industry and a bad deal for consumers.”
Non-profit TVW covers state government in Olympia and selected events statewide. Programs are available for replay on the internet, and the channel is widely available on Washington cable systems.
Beat reporters: Jerry Cornfield (Herald) | Rachel La Corte (AP) | Joseph O’Sullivan (Times) | Jim Brunner (Times) | Austin Jenkins (NW News Network) | Melissa Santos (Crosscut) | Sara Gentzler (McClatchy) | Jim Camden (Spokesman-Review)