All will pay, only some will benefit with majority’s new transportation package

Democrats eliminate $300,000 for third bridge study in final list

Senate Republican Leader John Braun of Centralia and House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox of Yelm offered this reaction to the majority Democrats’ passage of a fee-heavy transportation package (Senate Bill 5974 & Senate Bill 5975) that doesn’t address the needs of most Washington communities.

Republican leaders Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox
Republican leaders Sen. John Braun and Rep. J.T. Wilcox

“The majority Democrats have tried very hard to avoid talking about all the fees their transportation package is raising. Those extra costs are going to be wildly unpopular, and many of the people who will pay them get zero in exchange. Most won’t be able to take advantage of the free transit and other ‘green’ things aimed at the Puget Sound area, which are a big part of the sales pitch for this package.

“The majority is getting one thing right on the funding, by finally agreeing it’s OK to redirect some money away from the operating budget and put it toward transportation purposes instead. Republicans have been suggesting that for several years, so we’re encouraged to see the Democrats drop their resistance. It’s too bad they wouldn’t step up and also redirect some of the 15-billion-dollar budget surplus toward a temporary suspension of the regressive 49.4-cent state gas tax, as was proposed again in the Senate on Tuesday. That would be beneficial no matter where you live in our state.

“Republicans are well aware our state has transportation needs in the Puget Sound area. We could support many of these projects if not for the Democrats’ funding approach, especially the triple-digit increases in regressive fees and a possible sales-tax increase. Republicans had proposed a way to fund the Democrats’ project list, or a bipartisan list that works for all of Washington, without any change in taxes or fees. Our way would also reduce the dependence on the gas tax. The majority said no.

“It was a mistake for the House and Senate transportation-committee chairs to leave their Republican counterparts out of the conversation until it was time to rubber-stamp the final product. Ignoring the minority party is not the way to develop comprehensive policy and attract bipartisan support, and that’s reflected in the final votes on this package.” 

Clark County Today reached out to Sen. Lynda Wilson, (Republican, 17th District). We asked about the package, the new taxes, and her thoughts overall.

Sen. Lynda Wilson
Sen. Lynda Wilson

“A conference committee was assigned to reach agreement between the Senate and House on the two parts of the new Democrat package: SB 5974 (funding) and SB 5975 (spending),’’ Wilson wrote in an email response. “Its report came back to us late yesterday afternoon. When the conference report comes to the Senate floor today, no amendments are allowed. It’s an up-or-down vote (and you can expect the majority will be “up” so the approval is a foregone conclusion).

“Bridge funding or no bridge funding, I’m a firm NO on the Democrats’ new package. It increases regressive fees on people around WA but the new projects those fees would help fund are focused in the Puget Sound area, with few exceptions (like the replacement bridge). That’s the wrong approach, especially when Republicans offered a funding plan that would NOT raise taxes or fees.

“By the way, it sounds like the raid on the Public Works Trust Fund is not going to be as large, but it’ll still happen. That’s also wrong.

“One more thing: the $300,000 I secured in the supplemental transportation budget adopted by the Senate on Feb. 25 (SB 5689) is gone from the conference version of the budget (also being adopted today). I’m being told the reason is not the idea, but the timing. There’s a desire to let the I-5 bridge replacement progress a while longer, meaning it’s simply too soon for a third-bridge study. I can only take that explanation at face value. Mind you this was for $300,000 out of a $11.6 BILLION budget.’’


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