Gov. Jay Inslee toured Spokane on Wednesday, urging lawmakers to write a new transportation bill that would include money for the North Spokane Corridor.
“I think we ought to have a transportation package before the Apple Cup in the state of Washington,” Inslee said from the Francis Avenue bridge, scheduled to be completed by early next year as part of efforts to rejuvenate Highway 395 as a thoroughfare to Canada. The timetable would require the Legislature to hold another special session - its third of the year - to reach an agreement before the Cougars and Huskies square off Nov. 29.
Inslee’s call for action came after the announcement earlier in the week he had dropped plans to ask the Legislature for $450 million in state money to build a span over the Columbia River between Vancouver and Portland, Ore. Republican lawmakers in the Senate balked at the request in June, killing House plans to raise more than $8 billion during the next 12 years for road projects through higher gas taxes and vehicle fees that included appropriations for the bridge. Inslee will meet with legislative leaders later this month to talk about a new transportation package that will begin with a “blank slate,” the governor said.
“There are no excuses for inaction here,” Inslee said. “None.”
To a room full of state and local legislators, business leaders and representatives of organized labor at the downtown library, Inslee said his mind was open to suggestions about ways to save money on transportation costs, another imperative offered by Senate GOP members. While he praised efforts by Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson to push practical design as a way to save money, as seen in the Francis Avenue span’s wider sidewalks and more narrow traffic lanes, and said he would entertain ideas about revising wages for construction, Insless announced plans to nix a proposal that would eliminate a construction sales tax on road projects.
“We’re not going to take money out of our schools, to put it into our roads,” Inslee said.
While attendees brought up several projects in the Spokane area needing state money, including the planned Central City Line connecting the Spokane Community College campus to downtown and Browne’s Addition, Inslee said to get the votes needed for passage local legislators would have to set aside their geographic bias.
“I can tell you, that the more people in Eastern Washington who vote for a transportation package, the more dollars there will be invested in Eastern Washington,” Inslee said.