Traffic jam: Lawmakers face the legislative cut-off deadline

Here’s what’s happening on Day 29 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

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2022 Washington Legislature, Day 29 of 60

Everett Herald political reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

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OLYMPIA, Feb. 7 — It’s Monday. Are you ready for some madness this week?

Today is the cut-off to get policies which could cost money — excluding budgets — out of fiscal committees in the House and Senate.

There are 73 bills queued up for votes in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, 25 in the House Appropriations Committee and a bunch more in the finance and transportation committees.

Starting Tuesday, lawmakers face several marathon days on the virtual and actual floor. They face a Feb. 15 deadline to get bills out of their chamber and to the other one.

Climate and concrete collide

Democrats will unveil their transportation package at 1 p.m. Tuesday. A public hearing is set for 8 a.m. Thursday.

Look for around $15 billion in spending on ferries, buses, bike lanes, culverts, climate change, bridges and highway preservation. That money will come from federal coffers, the state general fund, cap-and-trade proceeds and hikes in vehicle-related fees. There will be no gas tax increase.

Democratic Sen. Emily Randall said this morning that investments will be “values focused,” not project-driven as in past packages.

As previously noted, the Ds crafted it largely without Republican input. They wanted to avoid a repeat of last session, when House and Senate transportation leaders drew up separate blueprints and couldn’t reach a deal on a final version.

“We wanted to make sure we were working on a package that was passable that we could implement this year,” Randall said.

GOP leaders are frustrated, to say the least.

“I think this has been a bizarre process,” House Minority Leader JT Wilcox told reporters this morning. “The process they’ve chosen is the least likely to be successful.”

Though GOP votes won’t be needed, it is an election year, which might make it hard for some Republicans to say no.

“We’re not anticipating as big of a love fest as we usually have,” said Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, chair of the House Democratic Caucus. “But I think we will see some bipartisanship on the bill.”

Holy MVET!

Willing to pay a higher annual vehicle-license fee to Sound Transit for service beyond the promises in the ST3 plan approved by voters in 2016?

Senate Bill 5528 — or what I like to call ST3.5 — could be your chance.

It aims to create “enhanced service zones” within Sound Transit boundaries where the motor vehicle excise tax could be increased by popular vote. A commercial parking tax could be levied, too.

The Senate Transportation Committee is to vote on the bill in its 12:30 p.m. meeting today. Here’s the language they’re considering.

Support your local school levy (or not)

Tuesday is a critical election for public schools across the state.

Many districts are asking voters to approve four-year property tax levies to pay for classroom staff, special education services and athletic programs not covered by state dollars. Amounts vary, but in the end it adds to a sizable sum.

For example, a dozen school districts in Snohomish County are hoping voters renew levies which expire at the end of this year. Combined, these propositions would generate $329.1 million for the districts in 2023, the first year of collections, and $1.41 billion over the course of four years.

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