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Published on Thursday, July 11, 2013

Transportation revenue package fails in second special session

As we entered the 2013 legislative session, it was clear that a variety of interests including business, labor, transit advocates, local governments and others would be pushing hard for a new statewide transportation revenue package. Despite that, there was much uncertainty, even more than usual, about the prospects for ultimate passage. The 2012 elections resulted in the departure of several legislators who had been key leaders on transportation issues. The Senate was going to be led by a new Majority Coalition Caucus and a new Governor was coming to Olympia. Legislators were facing another difficult operating budget discussion including direction from the State Supreme Court to put significant new revenues into K-12 education.

As the session started the last remaining longtime leader on transportation issues, House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Judy Clibborn, was the first to roll out a specific proposal. Though there were mixed reviews on many of the specifics, there continued to be broad support for her “Connecting Washington” package, including clear support from Gov. Inslee. AWC was encouraged that the package included various local transportation revenue options as well as direct distributions to cities, and these key components remained in the package as it was revised by Rep. Clibborn and the House Transportation Committee.

Not surprisingly, over in the Senate, there was less enthusiasm from the Republican dominated Majority Coalition Caucus. Their initial response to the House’s proposal was to roll out a series of “reforms” that they wanted to address as part of any new transportation package. It started to become clear that there was a contingent of Senators who were strongly opposed to new taxes and/or specific projects, the most notable being the Columbia River Crossing (a new replacement bridge on I-5 over the Columbia River). The Senate never formally released their own revenue proposal and instead waited on the House to act first.

With the primary focus of the legislative session being passage of a new biennial operating budget, it wasn’t until near the end of the second special session that the House, with the backing of Gov. Inslee, was finally able to pass the Connecting Washington package over to the Senate. By that time an operating budget deal was finally at hand and the Senate had little appetite or energy for trying to come up with the votes on what was a controversial proposal within the Majority Coalition Caucus. After one regular session and two special sessions, the package died.

While AWC is disappointed that legislators were unable to address our pressing transportation needs, the battle is not over. Now we have the opportunity to continue to press legislators on the need to provide adequate funding for cities’ transportation needs. While we expressed overall support for the package as it moved forward, there is no doubt that it could have been better for cities. In particular we will continue to advocate for local options, but we would also like to see more direct distribution of gas tax to cities and more funding for important programs and agencies such as Safe Routes to Schools and the Transportation Improvement Board.

There’s some indication that legislators, recognizing the need to act sooner than later, could try to work out a deal before the end of this year (see this Everett Herald article). As such it’s important that you continue to communicate with your legislators about your city’s transportation needs and challenges.

BillTracker AWC priority Bill # Descriptive title Final status
Other significant issue HB 1045 Simplifying the process for cities to set lower speed limits Law; Effective date 7/28/2013
    SHB 1420 Reducing requirements and costs for public improvement contracts for some transportation projects Law; Effective date 7/28/2013
    ESHB 1632 Expanding legal use of off-road vehicles in certain areas Law; Effective date 7/28/2013
    ESSB 5849 Requirements for electric vehicle charging stations and infractions for misuse Law; Effective date 7/28/2013
    ESSB 5024 Transportation budget Partial veto; Effective date 5/20/2013
    ESHB 1007 Requirement to cover all loads of dirt, rocks, sand or gravel Failed
    HB 1238/
SB 5141
Allowing motorcycles to proceed through red lights when vehicle activated light control does not detect motorcycle Failed
Major HB 1485 Increasing the vehicle fee limit under a transportation benefit district's councilmanic authority Failed
    SHB 1698 Requiring the installation of signs indicating the end of school speed zones Failed
    ESHB 1954 Statewide transportation revenue package Failed
Major SHB 1959/
SB 5861
Local transportation revenue options Failed
    SB 5093 Restricting the expenditure of TBD vehicle fees to highway purposes Failed