Greetings from Olympia!
Last Wednesday was our second major cut-off, which means that bills had to get through their House of origin by last Wednesday (unless they are essential for the budget) to stay alive. Now we are back to our regular committee schedule, hearing the bills that have passed from the Senate, and the Senate is hearing House bills in their committees.
Today I want to focus on transportation. This year we are writing our 2013-2015 Transportation Budget, considering new revenue for projects across the state, and trying to save King County Metro service.
Connecting Washington: The Transportation Revenue Package
Last month, prominent business, labor, and environmental leaders from around the state joined members of the House Transportation Committee unveil the “Connecting Washington” transportation proposal. As a part of a cabinet that has been advising Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Judy Clibborn, I attended the unveiling to show support the proposal as a good first step in addressing our transportation needs.
I expect that the $10 billion/10 cent gas tax increase that you may have heard about on the news will change significantly as it moves through the process. I will be evaluating the final product based on the following principals:
- Mobility – Does it help people in the 46th District get around with a variety of modes – transit, cars, walking, and biking?
- Carbon Pollution – Are there investments that help reduce carbon pollution from transportation, such as investments in transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure?
- A Strong Economy – Do investments help move goods and people, like agricultural products to our ports and people to their jobs?
- Efficiency and Accountability – Are our dollars being spent wisely? Working with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, I want to set up measures to ensure that WSDOT is using your tax dollars efficiently and effectively.
Keep in mind, there is still a lot of work to be done before a new set of investments is a reality, but you can find details of the current proposal, including a project breakdown on the House Democrats website.
Save Metro Bus Service
There’s nothing worse than waiting at the bus stop and having the bus pass you by because it’s too full. If King County Metro goes through with their planned 17 percent service cut, that’s going to happen to all of us a lot more often.
Even as transit ridership increases, King County Metro is set to slash their service due to substantial budget shortfalls. That is why I am sponsoring House Bill 1959, which would provide these desperately needed local funding options for transit agencies.
To date, King County Metro has been able to avoid major service cuts by surgically targeting less-used programs and services in order to save more popular ones. They have eliminated things like night service on little-used routes and shifted those service hours to higher demand area. They have also cut labor costs and closed the ride free zone.
The service cuts will become much harsher starting next year, however. Without support from the legislature, either through direct funding or local revenue options, Metro will cut service by 17 percent. That’s like closing down one lane of I-90 completely and another for 12 hours a day. As you can imagine, these cuts will have a major impact on transit users, but also on the broader regional and state transportation system.
Because HB 1959 is a revenue bill, it will likely be considered in the final weeks of session when General Fund and Transportation Budgets are finalized.
Making our Streets Safer
I was very proud to vote for House Bill 1045, which would give local municipalities more control over speed limits on non-arterial streets to make our neighborhoods safer. Right now, if a city wants to lower a speed limit, they have to conduct an expensive engineering study – a study most cities can’t afford in this time of tight budgets. This bill allows for lower speeds on neighborhood streets without requiring the study. This bill passed the House 86-10, and was passed unanimously out of the Senate’s Transportation committee. We now wait for the Senate to pull it to the floor for a vote of the entire Senate.
Keep in Touch
As always, I welcome your comments, feedback, and visits! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 360-786-7818. If I’m not available, my Legislative Assistant Nigel Herbig is always happy to pass your concerns on to me.
All the best,