$10B transportation plan dies with end of legislative session
Despite pressure from the governor and business leaders, leaders in the Washington state Senate refuse to take up House transportation plan.
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Lawmakers adjourned their second overtime legislative session without Senate action on a $10 billion transportation package despite intense lobbying from business groups and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom said he and his colleagues were unified in their opposition to the plan this session. They plan to work over the coming months to help develop a proposal that lawmakers could consider next year, Tom said.
“We’re going to lead on this issue,” said Tom, a Democrat from Medina who heads a majority dominated by Republicans.
Tom said improved infrastructure is important for the state’s economic vitality but that lawmakers first need to address policy changes for transportation projects, such as a new approach to the environmental-review process. He also said the list of projects paid for by the package would need to be focused more on improving congestion.
Senate Democrats made a last-ditch effort to pull the package to the floor for a vote through a procedural move but were unable to get the votes needed to succeed.
The failure of the plan came despite pressure from Inslee, who had hoped the bill would be approved this weekend. Business leaders, who often have been aligned with this year’s Senate majority, also had asked for the bill, saying transportation improvements were necessary.
“I’m beyond disappointed in this inaction,” Inslee said in a statement issued late Saturday afternoon. “The failure by the Senate’s Republican-led majority to act on the transportation plan stops us from making important investments in maintaining and preserving our roads and bridges and ensuring the safety the public deserves.”
The package approved by the House would have included a 10.5-cent increase in the gas tax in order to pay for a series of large projects, including state Highway 167, the North Spokane Corridor, Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and a replacement bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon.
The Columbia River bridge was widely opposed by Republicans in the state Senate, who said the current proposal for the bridge was too low and should not include light rail. They also expressed concern about the costs.
Supporters said it was time to approve the bridge. Oregon and Washington are each responsible for $450 million of the replacement span, with the federal government and toll revenue paying the rest. Oregon has approved its portion, and officials have expressed concern that federal money provided for the project will fall through if Washington state fails to act.