King says failure to pass transportation package not due to lack of effort

20140312_LegWA_0105abAt a news conference today – one day before the scheduled end of the 2014 legislative session – Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, lamented the fact that lawmakers did not pass an agreed-upon transportation revenue and reform package before adjourning. King added that the Majority Coalition Caucus, which leads the state Senate, repeatedly made compromises sought by the Senate minority, but to no avail.

“During the 2013 transportation feedback forum tour, we visited ten cities across Washington in five weeks. The vast majority of citizens made it clear that they wanted reforms before they’d accept any gas-tax increase, and we listened to the people.”

“From the very beginning, the MCC has prioritized reforms, and additional revenue was never off the table. But in the end, the Senate’s minority Democrats weren’t serious about making the tough reforms. They were more interested in tax increases and sound bites, despite knowing as well as I do that the state can’t win public support for a multibillion-dollar transportation package without first establishing that we are serious about fixing the waste, mismanagement and abuse that exists within the system.”

“Add to that the governor’s signing of a climate-change compact with Oregon, California and British Columbia. Of those governments, the only state that has not yet implemented low-carbon emission standards is Washington. California is expected to see an immediate 12-cent hike in gas taxes with a possible increase of up to 40 cents in the next year because of these types of standards, and Governor Inslee’s refusal to acknowledge his plans to unilaterally impose low-carbon emission standards was an obstacle to finalizing a transportation package.”

“The MCC offered a new compromise proposal February 13 and revised the offer on February 21, again moving significantly toward the Democrats’ position. However, it became obvious to us over the last month that Democrat leadership in the House and Senate is not interested in seeing a transportation package move forward this session, and their response to our most recent proposal told us – in no uncertain terms – that they are not interested in reaching agreement and moving forward.”

“The MCC remains committed to addressing Washington’s transportation needs, and will continue to work toward that goal even after the 2014 legislative session adjourns.”

Timeline of Transportation Events
(download the PDF here)

NOVEMBER 9, 2013
Sen. King issues a news release stating “negotiators are working to have something in hand soon,” and that “they are continuing to move forward and are optimistic that an agreement can be reached.”

DECEMBER 18, 2013
Last day of transportation negotiations. Democrats refuse another MCC proposal.

JANUARY 9, 2014
In response to a question from reporters at the Associated Press Transportation Forum, all four caucus transportation leaders state that the governor’s proposed low-carbon emission standard is an impediment to reaching an agreement on a transportation revenue package.

JANUARY 13, 2014
Session begins. Sen. King releases a statement calling on Governor Inslee to make known his intent to impose a low-carbon emission standard.

JANUARY 14, 2014
During the governor’s state of the state address, he claims he’s “been pushing the Legislature to do something about this [transportation] since [his] first day in office.

JANUARY 15, 2014
MCC lawmakers introduce seven more reform bills (SB 5858 had been previously introduced in 2013), bringing the total to eight proposed reforms. Six are sent to the Senate Transportation Committee, one to Commerce and Labor and one to Ways and Means.

JANUARY 16, 2014
Inslee sends a letter claiming he has “never proposed, nor discussed proposing, a ‘carbon-fuel tax’” and accuses Sen. King of “fear-mongering.”

JANUARY 17, 2014
Sen. King responds to Inslee’s letter with a letter of his own, calling on the governor to “categorically deny” his plans to unilaterally impose low-carbon emission standards. The governor refuses to do so.

JANUARY 29, 2014
Despite repeated pleas from MCC members, the Democrat Senate Transportation Co-Chair refuses to allow hearings on MCC reform bills, admitting in the committee hearing that she will not allow reform bills to be considered by the Senate Transportation Committee until she receives “the rest of the package” (gas tax increase).

FEBRUARY 13, 2014
MCC unveils a compromise transportation package proposal that spends approximately $300 million more on multimodal than the previously-introduced MCC proposal and makes other concessions as well. MCC reserves a room and invites the governor, House and Senate stakeholders to attend a resumption of negotiations scheduled for February 19. Sen. King sends a formal letter calling for the restart of negotiations.

Within two hours of MCC news conference, House and Senate Democrats hold an impromptu news conference admitting they had not read the proposal but were dismissing it, claiming it was insufficient because it still didn’t spend enough on multimodal, spent too much on stormwater projects from the environmental cleanup account and continued to advocate for sales tax reform on transportation projects. In response to a question from reporters, Sen. Eide admits that she’s holding the reform proposal hostage because “it’s the only leverage [she’s] got.”

FEBRUARY 19, 2014
Senate Democrats and House Republicans attend the resumed negotiation meeting with the MCC. Sen. Eide provides a letter repeating her critiques of the most recent MCC proposal. Representatives of the governor’s office and House Democrats are conspicuously absent.

FEBRUARY 21, 2014
Same parties meet again. The MCC proposes yet another compromise transportation package which invests another $300 million in multimodal (for a total of $804 million), reduces stormwater funding to $40 million and reduces monies collected from transportation sales and use tax reform from $840 million to $720 million. Initial reaction from Senate Democrats is positive.

FEBRUARY 25, 2014
Sen. Eide confers with Sen. King, verbally rejecting the most recent MCC package proposal and suggesting further MCC movement toward her position; however, no formal written counteroffer from Senate Democrats is produced.

FEBRUARY 28, 2014
King introduces three new bills reflecting the MCC proposal made February 21. The bills are referred to the Senate Transportation Committee where the Democrat co-chair refuses to give them a public hearing.

MARCH 5, 2014
Sen. Eide sends a letter to Sen. King offering to hold a public hearing on the three bills. Sen. King responds by her 5 p.m. deadline with a letter questioning whether she will hear reform bills as well as package bills.

MARCH 6, 2014
Sen. Eide sends a letter clarifying she intends to hear and pass the package bills before allowing hearings on the reform bills. Sen. Hobbs announces an MCC-like proposal that reduces the sales tax reform to $480 million, cuts state patrol salaries and increases multimodal spending beyond the most recent MCC proposal, however he admits he does not have support from his own caucus.

MARCH 11, 2014
On TVW’s “The Impact,” the Senate Democrat Leader blames the MCC for the state’s failure to pass a transportation package.

MARCH 12, 2014
The House Transportation Chair on KIRO radio alludes to MCC members being the reason for the transportation package’s failure, saying, “I don’t understand the rationale about people who represent those small rural areas, and Eastern Washington, which gets so much support from the state on their projects – why this was so important, that they would kill a package that was this good for the state.”