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Posts tagged: transportation

Inslee raps Legislature for no transportation package

Gov. Jay Inslee says Republicans in the Senate kept changing demands on the amount of sales tax they wanted redirected for transportation projects.

OLYMPIA — Washington faces reduced maintenance on roads and bridges as well as cuts in mass transit because the Legislature did  not pass a major package this year of transportation projects funded by higher gasoline taxes, Gov. Jay Inslee said early Friday morning.
 
The Legislature finished its 60-day session at 11:53 p.m. after a flurry of final day bills that included some modest changes to its operating budget, a bill to allow all veterans to receive instate tuition at state universities and colleges and an extension of a fee that helps pay for programs that fight homelessness.
 
There were big wins in the constitutionally short session, particularly a law earlier in the year that allows the Washington high school students who aren't legal residents but grew up in Washington to be eligible for some college aid, Inslee said shortly after midnight. But, he added, “there's a lot left undone”…
 
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GOP raps Inslee in advance of their transportation package

OLYMPIA — A transportation package from the predominantly Republican Senate majority may be announced Thursday, although coalition leaders couldn't say Wednesday how much support it has in their caucus.

Instead, they took aim at Gov. Jay Inslee, accusing the governor of a lack of leadership in negotiating something that he and legislators have said the state needs for more than a year — a plan to build new highway projects, fix roads and bridges, reform transportation practices and generate support for the taxes needed to accomplish that. They haven't had a meeting with Inslee since the first day of the legislative session, Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, of Ritzville, said.

“We need to get back in that room,” Majority Coalition Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said. “The governor's going to have to show a lot of leadership.”

A spokesman for Inslee called the criticism “utter nonsense” and a sign that those leaders are feeling the heat from constituents and business groups for their own inaction.

David Postman said staff from the governor's office has been in contact with the Curtis King, the Senate Republican working on the package, on a daily basis. The governor convened a dozen meetings on transportation with legislative leaders last year. They broke up in December with King saying it would be up to the Senate to come up with a package as a counter to the proposal House Democrats passed in that chamber, Postman said. According to some recent reports, that package might not be ready until a “lame duck” session after the November elections.

Tom and Schoesler parried questions about whether they had the votes to pass a transportation package by questioning whether House Democrats have the votes to approve the bonds needed for their proposal. Although a list of projects and taxes can pass with a simple majority, the bonds needed to build some of those projects by using the tax money require a three-fifths majority, 60 votes in the House and 30 in the Senate.

“To get to 30, the governor needs to get us in the room. Maybe then you can start meeting everybody's needs,” Tom said.

Inslee and House Democrats can't negotiate with Senate Republicans unless they have the votes to pass their package and get their members to agree to changes they sign off on. “The people who need to be locked in a room is the coalition,” Postman said.

 

Sunday spin: A special session on transpo if. . .

OLYMPIA – With enough time, things that were once unthinkable can become conceivable options.

I’m not talking about anything as outrageous as using sarin gas or electing a Democrat in the 4th Legislative District. But a few months ago, it would have been incomprehensible to talk seriously about calling yet still another special session of the Legislature this year.

When legislators limped wearily out of Olympia in late June after two overtime sessions, it seemed like returning in January would be more than soon enough.

Now, however, a special session to address some of the state’s major transportation woes is being floated by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said last week he’d consider calling one in November if legislators could agree on a package of projects and revenue. . .

Spec Sess II Day 14: No deal yet; House voting on other bills

OLYMPIA — Budget negotiators reported worked late into the night Monday — or early into the morning Tuesday, depending on various accounts — but had no deal to report at the start of the legislative day.

A new word of warning was being sounded, however: It takes time to prepare a budget of about 400 pages after an agreement is reached, including typing, printing, proofing and revising, then having it presented to the legislators, and subjected to votes in both houses where it might be amended. How much time varies a bit, depending on who is making the estimate. 

But without an agreement by Wednesday, there might not be enough time to get all of that done before midnight Sunday, when the current fiscal year ends and the new fiscal year starts. The budget is what gives the state the authority to spend money on many of its programs, and pay salaries for many of its employees in that new fiscal year. Hence the worry of a partial government shutdown.

The House is voting on a serious of bills designed to improve state transportation projects. Bills to require permits be issued faster, construction errors be reported more promptly and have the department reported major changes to the Office of Financial Management passed with huge margins.

WA Lege Day 30: Name that bridge — for a price

OLYMPIA — Driving from Spokane to Seattle might take a motorist west on the Avista Highway, across the Microsoft Bridge to the Starbucks Expressway under a bill the Legislature is considering  to sell the rights to put corporate or other names on the state's roads, bridges, tunnels and ferries. 

Some members of the Senate Transportation Committee made light of the idea, wondering for example, if every legislator would get a chance to name at least one structure after themselves and  what it would cost to rename the Tacoma Narrows Bridge the Chuck E. Cheese Bridge.

The cost is unclear, said the committee's staff. There's no cost estimate or fiscal analysis of the proposal.

A 2009 study on selling the naming rights to name the state's ferries estimated it that proposal could raise about $10 million a year, Dan O'Neal of the Washington State Transportation Commission said. Not a lot of money, but “it may have some merit” O'Neal said.

It's an idea the state should at least consider, Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said, if it will bring some money into the state's road project coffers. After all, that $10 million going into the state transportation fund would be money that isn't coming out of the taxpayers' pockets, he said.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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