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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inslee signs transportation budget, won’t comment on main budget progress

OLYMPIA – Washington state has an updated transportation budget that provides raises for state troopers and some relief for traffic-clogged highways in the Puget Sound region.

But prospects for a revised operating budget any time soon are uncertain. Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday budget negotiators have made progress but wouldn’t reveal any details or even estimate how much closer they are to a deal than when he called them into special session 16 days ago.

“They’ve had some fits and starts,” Inslee said after signing the supplemental transportation budget.

That budget, which was negotiated and settled during the regular session, has an extra $5 million for salaries for officers in the Washington State Patrol, part of an effort to stem the exodus of troopers to other law enforcement agencies that offer higher pay. It also has an extra $2.4 million to the Department of Licensing to help cover the increased demand for enhanced driver’s licenses as the state faces restrictions from the federal government for the use of its standard licenses.

An additional $45 million will be spent to provide more lanes on sections Interstate 405, which has come under fire for traffic jams and high tolls on express lanes.

Along with the transportation budget, Inslee signed 22 related bills, including authorization for new “specialty” license plates for wrestling, tennis, steelhead, and farmers and ranchers. Portions of the fees from those plates go to support those activities or groups connected to them, such as the Future Farmers of America.

He did not veto any bills, despite a threat during the last week of the regular session to veto bills if lawmakers didn’t send him a budget. He did veto bills some bills at the start of the special session that he considered not vital to public health and safety, saying he believed legislators could complete budget negotiations in a few days. That didn’t happen.

On Friday he also wouldn’t say if he would veto more bills next week if a supplemental budget isn’t passed.

“I really think the most productive thing for me is to not comment. I don’t want to slow down or retard that (progress),” he said.