Two days after the Senate passed a $15 billion transportation package, its transportation-committee chair is crediting the people of Washington for the cost-saving reforms that set the package apart from anything the Legislature has passed.
“The bills we have laid at the doorstep of the House of Representatives, with broad bipartisan votes, contain some very effective consumer protections – including one meant to keep fuel-related revenue from disappearing into the air, under the disguise of a low carbon fuel standard, instead being put toward roads and bridges,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima. “Our negotiating positions have been closer than most folks know; taking the time to work out more of the details resulted in a great package for nearly every resident of our state.
“After the Senate put the brakes on the governor in 2013, and set aside the no-reform package he wanted, we went around the state listening to what the people said they wanted in a transportation system. At every turn they indicated a willingness to invest more in the infrastructure but only if we included reforms that would protect their investment and stretch their dollars,” King explained. “It’s those reforms that make this package so much better than the governor’s approach as well as what the Legislature adopted in 2003 and 2005.”
The 11-bill transportation-revenue package would devote $8 billion to new construction and $1.4 billion to maintenance and preservation of existing roads and bridges across the state. The first eight bills passed in the Senate addressed key reforms that were sticking points for King during negotiations. Agreement on the accountability measures led King and his Majority Coalition Caucus colleagues to support the proposed 11.7 cent-per-gallon gas-tax increase, phased in over three years.
“No one likes paying more at the pump, including me. But people in our state are smart and they understand we can’t have a ‘no tax of any kind’ option and still fix our crumbling infrastructure. I think folks can also see through the ‘make the polluters pay’ scheme that is rife with feel-good sound bites and devoid of tangible details – we can’t build roads and bridges on ideology,” said King, R-Yakima.
A transportation-revenue package has not been approved by the Legislature since 2005, and that one allocated no money to maintenance and preservation. King noted that this package gets the state back on track.
“Our roads and bridges have been neglected for over a decade. It is time for us to step up and deal with the mess we’ve been left,” continued King. “Sometimes that isn’t the popular choice, but it is the responsible and proper choice. Not all of the decisions we make in life are easy, but they still have to be made.”
The package also includes a contingency that effectively blocks any effort by the governor to use executive action to impose low-carbon fuel standards on Washington’s citizens.
“The idea that we have to decide between the environment and this revenue package is patently false. Our state is already a low-carbon place and many of the programs we’ve already put in place continue to drive down our carbon output. This revenue package doesn’t imperil the health of one single citizen, but it does provide tremendous economic development, hundreds of thousands of good, family-wage jobs and safer roads,” said King.