Transportation budget protects vulnerable, restarts paused projects

OLYMPIA—The budget proposed by House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma) addresses the $453 million shortfall in revenue caused by the passage of Initiative 976.

“We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable among us, including seniors and the disabled who rely on special needs transit, along with rural transit,” Fey said. “Both of those areas faced the prospect of devastating cuts due to the effect of Initiative 976, and the budget I’m proposing makes a series of budgeting adjustments to protect special needs and rural transit.”

Most of the transportation budget is funded by the gas tax, which according to the 18th amendment of the state constitution must be spent on state highways and ferries. Because of this, the revenue losses caused by Initiative 976 tended to hurt non-highway services the most, including mass transit, special needs transportation and rural programs. The harm to these services totaled $339 million out of the $453 million shortfall due to the initiative.

“There were a number of moves in this budget designed to reduce and mitigate the harm of Initiative 976,” Fey said. “Some may see this budget proposal and point to it as evidence that the revenue cuts aren’t so bad. I want people to be aware that this proposal tries hard to prevent short-term damage. Lawmakers will have to deal with the long-term problems in revenue losses next session when we write a new two-year budget. There will be a growing stress on the highway program due to the budget changes we made and the requirement to increase our fish-passage investment.”

Fey’s proposal increases the state’s total Transportation Budget to $10.19 billion from last year’s two-year budget of $9.84 billion, an increase of $350 million. Part of this was possible due to using unspent funds from the 2017-19 biennium.

“I’m proud that this budget contains zero reductions to highway preservation work and restarts the projects paused by the governor and the Department of Transportation,” Fey said. “Our environmental priorities, including green transportation and fighting climate change, are also reflected in this proposal. We worked closely with the governor’s office to make sure his values are incorporated, and that includes funding for fish passages. We are committed to doing what’s morally right and legally required on culverts. Next biennium, our investment in fish passages needs to be doubled if we’re going to stay on track with the court’s deadline.”

Highlights of the budget include:

  • Full funding of the Colman Dock and Mukilteo terminal projects ($240 million)
  • Maintaining the Green Transportation capital grant funding ($11.5 million)
  • Full funding for the Department of Transportation Highway Preservation work ($839 million)
  • Maintaining the implementation of REAL ID
  • Protecting existing funding for Special Needs Transportation assistance
  • Restoring funding for several Department of Transportation local program trail projects ($6 million)
  • Restarting projects paused by the governor and the Department of Transportation
  • Funding the governor’s request for fish passage barrier removals ($275 million)

More details about Fey’s transportation budget proposal can be found here: