Newsletter: Transportation budget, buying forest lands, the crab bill, & a science contest for your high-school kid

Dear friends and neighbors,

We’re almost at the halfway point of this 60-day legislative session. The first policy cutoff was last week and today is the first fiscal cutoff. What this means is that any policy bills that didn’t make it out of their committees by last Wednesday are dead, unless they are directly related to the budgets. And today, at 5 PM is the deadline for bills in fiscal committees.

Tomorrow we start around the clock floor action to get as many bills as possible out of the House so they can be considered in the Senate. Likewise, that chamber will be voting on bills that will then be taken up by House committees.

A deeper look at the State’s Transportation Budget

This short legislative session presents significant challenges as we tackle rising construction costs for critical transportation projects like ferries, roads, and fish passages. While the 2023-2025 State Transportation Appropriations Act allocated $13.5 billion, the governor’s proposed supplemental budget (HB 2134) requests an additional $1.6 billion to fulfill promises made in the Move Ahead Washington and Connecting Washington packages.

transpo seq short

Last week, the House Transportation Committee held working sessions with the Washington State Department of Transportation to address difficult choices that will need to be made with this year’s budget. Some of these issues include:

  • 520 Bridge/Portage Bay: When the legislature initially approved a new concrete girder on the bridge with a targeted completion date in the early 2030s, we estimated the price tag would be $800 million. But when WSDOT sent out a bid to complete the project, only two vendors were interested—and their estimate came in at a whopping $1.3 billion. The Seattle Times covered this topic in-depth; click here to read more.
  • Fish culverts: Last fall, the Seattle Times reported that the huge spike in costs to help salmon could derail the state’s transportation budget. Over the next two decades, remedying the state’s fish culverts is projected to cost anywhere from $7.3 billion to $7.8 billion, far beyond the $3.8 billion already spent or earmarked by the legislature.
  • Proceeds from cap-and-trade auctions: The Climate Commitment Act passed in 2021 and more than 100 projects around the state benefited from the $76.2 million raised in the first year of cap-and-trade auctions. These proceeds are used in our state’s operating, capital, and transportation budgets, and are vital to keep important projects on track.

The transportation budget is certain to receive a lot more media coverage in the weeks to come, and I will continue to keep you updated as we work on these challenges and make some tough decisions.

Removing financial barriers when buying forest land


My seatmate, Rep. Steve Tharinger, and I introduced House Bill 1818 last year. Our bill is very specifically about fairness when a government entity purchases land.

While it was passed by the Finance Committee, it did not make it to the floor for a vote before we ran out of time. Since this is the second year of the biennium, all bills that didn’t pass the first year are automatically reintroduced and, this time, I am happy to report that it did get to the floor and the House passed it unanimously on January 17.

This legislation was developed in collaboration with stakeholders, including constituents and local governments, to address issues faced by governments managing timberland. Currently, when attempting to purchase forestland, cities, counties and state agencies are subject to the compensating tax, which is steep, impractical, and hindering. Private landowners, however, are exempt from this tax.

Our bill establishes that if a government acquires timberland for continued timber management, it should be exempt from the compensating tax and if the land use changes, the tax will apply.

Remember my crab bill?

Last year I discussed my legislation (House Bill 1010) at length in multiple newsletters (Jan 21, Feb 5, Mar 6, Mar 21, Mar 31) and I sent out a press release when It passed the House on March 3.

The goal of this bill is straightforward: to keep crab fisheries from closing, to ensure crab meat availability, and to boost the economy along coastal communities.

crab legs and lemon

My legislation was reintroduced the first week of session and is now on third reading, which means it is ready to run on the floor.

Last year this legislative body gave its full support to my bill passing it unanimously. The previous biennium, the policy was also voted out of the House in 2021 and 2022.

If we pass it again this session, it’ll be the fourth time we send this measure to the Senate.

Our coastal communities need this bill, so I’m hoping it reaches the governor’s desk this time.

Got a high-schooler with a knack for science?

science contest

The Washington Tracking Network Youth Science Contest is an opportunity for high school students in Washington state to develop their science and communication skills by engaging with health and environmental data from their own communities and make a real impact.

Registrations are open from February 1 through March 1, 2024, submissions will be accepted until April 15, and winners will be announced in late May.

Thanks for reading my newsletter, I hope you found it interesting and if you want more information on any of these issues or you have questions, concerns, ideas or just want to give me feedback, please contact my office.


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