OLYMPIA – In an unusual example of bipartisan good feelings, a near unanimous House passed an update to the state’s transportation budget that would restart major projects without tax increases.
The supplemental budget, an update to the two-year spending plan approved last year, rearranges spending in some categories to cover, at least temporarily, a potential drop in revenue from Initiative 976, which reduced most taxes and fees collected on license tabs.
After I-976 passed, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a pause on many major transportation projects until the Legislature could decide how to cover an estimated $453 million drop in revenue. The House budget proposal takes money that has been appropriated for various projects but not spent because of unexpected delays, and shifts it to cover the losses from the initiative in various areas.
“We can remove that pause in needed construction,” Transportation Committee Chairman Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said. “But most of these fixes were short-term fixes.”
Legislators will have less flexibility, and a bigger hole to fill, next year if the state Supreme Court upholds the initiative.
That didn’t deter House members from praising the budget before them.
Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, called it “a great budget, about as good as we can do” and one that would keep the state moving forward.
Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said it proves “this body wins when we all stand together.”
Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, was the only member of the Transportation Committee to vote no on the budget when it left the committee. But he voted for the bill in the House, saying it has money for road maintenance and preservation, which he considers priorities that could get more attention in the future, and that the budget is fiscally responsible.
The budget now goes to the Senate, which is considering its own transportation proposal that was voted out of committee Thursday. Inslee has indicated he will remove the pause on road projects as soon as the Legislature passes a final transportation budget.
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