Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week the House passed its version of the next two-year transportation budget. This $8.56 billion budget includes money for:
Retention and recruitment of highly qualified state troopers.
Maintenance and repairs to roads all across Washington.
Ongoing ferry operations.
Study of and repairs to structurally deficient bridges.
Removal of fish passage barriers.
Continued implementation of Connecting Washington projects.
House Republicans sponsored several amendments to bring more accountability and protection for taxpayers, but most of them were not adopted. However, I was able to get an amendment passed to include safety reflectors on Hwy 26 when roadwork is being done.
One particular troubling part of the House transportation budget is the continuation of the “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) pilot project. I'm concerned this continued effort may bring about more of a shift in the transportation tax burden to rural areas as those stuck in traffic in the Puget Sound burning fuel try to get out from under the state's per-gallon tax system. We sponsored an amendment to defund this program as no one has been able to come up with a solution to address out-of-state drivers that enter our state. The amendment was not adopted.
The transportation budget, along with the capital and operating budgets, are still in ongoing negotiations.
Another special session?
It looks that way. Operating budget negotiations have reached a snail's pace. House Democrats are insistent upon their $8 billion in tax increases. The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus is insistent that the House vote on and pass those tax increases before negotiations begin in order to show they have support with their own members – which they don't, so they won't.
As a result, another special session looks likely. This is frustrating as voters send us to Olympia to do a job within the constitutionally-set timeframe. Special sessions cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a day. I've urged members on both sides to come to an agreement as quickly as possible. But I also don't believe our citizens – or our economy – are in a position to give more of their hard-earned dollars to the state.
We're still waiting to see if Gov. Jay Inslee and House Democrats will allow for a Hirst fix. They've put their foot on our efforts to bring relief to landowners and local jurisdictions around the state. Here's a Seattle Times op-ed written by my colleagues, Reps. John Koster and Jacquelin Maycumber, on some important legislation we recently proposed and why Hirst will impact EVERYONE – not just those who own land (HINT: tax shift).
If you have questions or concerns, please let me know. It's an honor to serve you in the state Legislature.