For months, the public, policymakers and the media have been speculating over if and when the governor would call a special session to pass a transportation revenue package. Last week, the governor and bipartisan leaders in the Legislature jointly announced that we will continue to work on meeting our state’s transportation needs during the upcoming regular session, which begins on January 13.
While some are disappointed that we were not able to reach an agreement sooner (and I am one of those people), the thought, work and time being put into this package make it more likely that we will arrive at a better end-result. As President Barack Obama once said, “no party has a monopoly on wisdom; no democracy works without compromise.”
We in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) believe that compromise is crucial to producing a transportation package that meets the varying needs of our diverse state. Failure to do so would only result in a package that could ultimately be rejected at the ballot box.
Because we want the final package to be capable of winning public support, we took the time this fall to listen to thousands of Washington residents in 10 cities across the state. What they want is a package that delivers a balanced and fair approach, finishes big projects and gets people and the economy moving again.
The Senate proposal does just that. We have created a package that gives more flexibility to cities and counties to spend their transportation dollars as they see best, whether it’s on public transit, bike paths, or fixing potholes and bridges. Having this local option has been the number one request of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, and we heard them loud and clear.
During our statewide listening tour, many Washingtonians voiced concern over public transit funding. So when the MCC plan was released this fall, it provided 12.2 percent for transit, bike and pedestrian paths, and additional local options. That’s more than twice the percentage of funding for transit in previous transportation packages. And in the latest round of negotiations, we have already increased that number even more.
We are also fighting to protect transportation dollars through sales tax reform. Washington is one of only five states to apply sales tax to the full contract amount of transportation projects. Changing that will help guarantee that the SR-520 West End, SR 9 Snohomish River Bridge, and the I-5 Marysville Interchanges have the funding to be completed.
The Majority Coalition Caucus agrees that transportation infrastructure is important to our state, and we remain committed to finding a solution when we return to Olympia in January. We have already requested that negotiations start again the first week of the legislative session and are waiting to hear back from the governor and our colleagues in the House.
The bottom line: It is more important to get the package done right, than to just get it done right now. The bipartisan Senate coalition is working to address current transportation needs and Washington’s economic future in a fair and equitable way that restores public trust in how our transportation dollars are spent.
Doing this will require compromise and hard work. It will also take time to do it right, but at the end of the day, it will be time well spent.
State Sen. Curtis King, R- Yakima, is co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.