Eli Sanders interviewed Rep. Reuven Carlyle in the Slog, assessing blame for Metro’s predicament and suggesting a way forward:
Until a statewide package passes, Carlyle said, “I think the pain points are going to increase everywhere. Pierce County is feeling it. King County is now feeling it. What is the argument against a statewide transportation plan, other than that taxes are a bummer?”…
[Murray can lead] by loudly connecting the dots for Seattleites who want action to save Metro, telling them exactly who to send money to in order to flip the handful of state senate seats that Democrats need in order to get Metro the money it needs.
Although I wouldn’t expect a Democratic legislator to say anything else, this comment is both misleading and self-serving.
The Republicans have run the Senate for less than 18 months. Metro’s funding crisis is in its sixth year. The Democrats had about four years to find a long-term solution for Metro. Aside from the two-year $20 vehicle license fee that is about to expire, neither party in Olympia has done anything. This includes Gov. Gregoire’s immediate abandonment of her commitment to include Metro funding in the deep-bore tunnel deal, her direct veto of a $20 vehicle license fee for Metro in 2009, as well as former Senate Transportation Chair Haugen’s decision to hold off on Metro relief until it could be yoked to a massive highway expansion bill. Metro advocates would be naive to believe a Democratic majority would automatically bring new funding.
And that’s the argument against a transportation package that eludes Mr. Carlyle. Any conceivable transportation package will trade the maintenance of existing transit for a massive expansion of highway capacity. This will spew greenhouse gases, expand sprawl, and add to future highway maintenance costs. (Check out last year’s (Democratic) House proposal for an example of a terrible bill.) Chances are good that a bill will automatically authorize the highways — endless subsidy of drivers is too important to risk at the ballot box — while the transit will likely require a county vote. As we’ve seen, county votes are not necessarily a slam dunk.
This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t a handful of good legislators,* or that Republican transportation policy is, in any way, good for the future of the state. They despise taxes that discourage destructive behavior and would be perfectly happy to do nothing but build highways. However, those desires are in tension, and their control of the Senate at least thwarts the only slightly better Democratic ideas.
For many of you, there are other issues where the Senate Majority will make a big difference. But until we see a real commitment from the Democratic Caucus to focus on the road maintenance backlog rather than highway expansion, transportation is not one of them. Local battles have much more potential for good outcomes in transportation and land use, and you should focus on those.
* Liias, Fitzgibbon, and Farrell are all exceptional, but not enough to stem the tide of bad ideas in their own caucus.