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Here’s State Senator Curtis King’s press release that he’ll lead the State Senate Transportation Committee – which I’ve added Republican red to get your attention:

During a meeting of Senate majority lawmakers Monday, Sen. Curtis King was chosen to chair the Senate Transportation Committee. As head of the committee, King will steer the transportation agenda and bill proposals, as well as write the biennial transportation budget.

It is anticipated that the agenda will focus on passage of a reform and transportation-revenue package. King has spent the legislative interim touring the state and meeting with local and regional officials to identify top infrastructure needs.

“Every corner of our state is facing critical road and bridge issues,” said King, R-Yakima. “The need for a new reform and transportation-revenue package is not limited to one side of the state or another. The high-profile fiascos have further cemented my contention that we need department of transportation reforms before we cut another check. I’m hopeful that those who haven’t wanted to see accountability are finally ready to listen to the folks they represent,” said King.

An executive order signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in April that calls for statewide carbon reductions is expected to play a significant role in transportation-budget talks as well. While specifics have been scarce, many scenarios have been floated from the governor’s office in an effort to gauge public reaction.

“The bottom line of every one of the governor’s carbon-reduction plans has Washington citizens paying more at the pump, to heat their homes and for anything that is transported to market. None of these increased costs will pay for new roads, safety enhancements or expanded transit routes. Instead the governor would have us all pay for an ideological issue and questionable decrease in carbon output.

“We can make smart, environmentally sound transportation decisions that don’t hamstring every family in Washington. This is not a matter of earth versus roads. We can have policies that both protect the environment and make our transportation system work,” said King.

“Governor Inslee’s office recently sent a letter outlining his plan to draft a transportation package that will focus on maintenance, safety and existing infrastructure. I am looking forward to seeing the details of his proposal,” said King.

In addition to transportation, King will also serve on the Commerce and Labor, and Rules committees. The upcoming legislative session will begin Jan. 12 and is scheduled to last 105 days.

Looks to me like State Senator Curtis King is having a change of attitude about transit, which I welcome.  So should we.  Although the details of how certainly, unquestionably matter, this press release indicates State Senator King is open to helping transit advocates out.  A senior House Republican spokeswoman also indicated the same to me earlier this week.

So all that fatalism in the comment threads when Republicans has State Legislative gains?  Perhaps misplaced.

11 Replies to “North by Northwest 38: State Senator Curtis King Gives Transit Advocates Hope”

  1. He doesn’t say he supports expanding transit routes or more transit funding. He just says the governor’s carbon plan won’t do it. Neither his “one side of the state or the other” or “earth vs roads” mention transit. In fact, we can conclude that either (A) nobody in his statewide tour mentioned transit as a priority (impossible for Pugetopolis, slightly surprising for Spokane), or (B) he didn’t put it in this press release because its target audience is drivers who care most about gas prices.

    I’m also concerned about this “we need department of transportation reforms before we cut another check”. Maybe WSDOT needs reforms, maybe not; it doesn’t matter to us because WSDOT has little to do with transit. (Which is itself a problem.) But we’ve heard that rhetoric before from people who are never satisfied with any level of reform: they always say it’s insufficient. What does King think is wrong with WSDOT and what would be sufficient reform?

    King as head of the transportation committee makes me more pessimistic than anything else I’ve seen. But a transportation leader must know that some level of transit is important. So what level does he want?

    1. “A transportation leader must know that some level of transit is important. So what level does he want?”

      I think that right there my friend sums up why I wrote, “Although the details of how certainly, unquestionably matter, this press release indicates State Senator King is open to helping transit advocates out.”

      I do think we need to reform WSDOT and perhaps, maybe Sound Transit plus countywide transit agencies. I’m hopeful we’ll see that discussion – but I agree more revenue better not mean revenue for only roads.

      As to WSDOT reforms, here’s what was put on the table in 2014 by House Republicans:

      Ensure accountability for tax dollars by requiring WSDOT to report engineering errors (House Bill 1986).
      Protecting taxpayers by limiting WSDOT’s tort liability (House Bill 1984) and limiting bond terms for transportation projects to 15 years (House Bill 1989).
      Reduce and/or eliminate unnecessary costs that make transportation projects more expensive, including:
      inefficient permitting (House Bill 1236),
      excessive environmental rules,
      sales taxes the state charges itself on state projects (House Bill 1985),
      prevailing wage rules, and
      mass transit improvement requirements.
      Stop diverting existing transportation taxes and fees for non-highway purposes.
      Identify and fund specific projects that fix chokepoints, expand highway capacity and reduce traffic congestion.

      More details here: http://houserepublicans.wa.gov/news/house-republicans-on-state-transportation-system-fix-it-before-you-fund-it/

      1. I don’t need the Republican red to know I don’t like it. On the previous Republican initiatives:

        “Ensure accountability for tax dollars by requiring WSDOT to report engineering errors (HB 1986).”
        I don’t see how this does anything other than increase bureacracy. Earlier design errors like the SR-16 interchange misalignment or cracks in SR-520 pontoons have seen plenty of publicity and reaction on the part of WSDOT. I imagine most engineering errors are much smaller than these and less consequential. Writing reports on each of these just increases overhead. The department is going to focus on the big boo-boos with or without a law that mandates it. Don’t you think there will be some post-mortem report on the SR-99 project in a few years after the dust (and Pioneeer Square) have settled?

        “Protecting taxpayers by limiting WSDOT’s tort liability (HB 1984) and limiting bond terms for transportation projects to 15 years (HB 1989).”
        Tort liability is just a hot button Republican issue. I have no great love of lawyers, but sometimes they’re necessary.
        Limiting bond terms seems like an odd one. It would reduce overall debt service costs, but the state should be able to build more stuff with longer terms. Why not leave it to the finance guys to figure out?

        “Reduce and/or eliminate unnecessary costs that make transportation projects more expensive, including:
        inefficient permitting (HB 1236),”
        I haven’t read the bill but I suspect it has more to do with shortchanging the process rather than making it more efficient.

        “excessive environmental rules,”
        Define “excessive”. If they’re excessive for transportation projects, maybe they’re excessive universally and should be re-examined generally. Don’t make exceptions to environmental regulations just for highways.

        “sales taxes the state charges itself on state projects (HB 1985),”
        It’s a wash; it moves some revenue from the gas tax to general revenue. The state could use more of both.

        “prevailing wage rules,”
        Republican talking point.

        ” … mass transit improvement requirements.
        Stop diverting existing transportation taxes and fees for non-highway purposes.
        Identify and fund specific projects that fix chokepoints, expand highway capacity and reduce traffic congestion.”
        There is already dedicated revenue for highway purposes in the gas tax (although curiously, the WSP and WSF are ‘highway purposes’). Use that revenue to fix chokepoints. As many people have pointed out, to otherwise expanding highway capacity doesn’t necessarily reduce traffic congestion.

      2. Aw;

        I’m currently working but just so we’re all clear here: I was just answering a question as to what the legislative Republicans were talking about, regarding reform. I’m not saying I’m for or against.

        However, I have a strong revulsion to Washington State sales taxing any transportation project built by Washington State workers – whether it’s on roads or mass transit. The workers & businesses already pay sales tax and frankly the sales tax goes to the general fund – gas taxes and transit fare and earmarked transit sales tax all support transportation. Already transportation is less important than education – we need to stop the educational industrial complex from double dipping scarce transportation dollars.

        I also think we need to have a conversation about prevailing wage…. very badly. Transportation dollars do not grow on trees.

        That said, I agree as to, “Don’t make exceptions to environmental regulations just for highways.” We all know highway expansion provides limited & expensive congestion relief – if any relief at all.

    2. Joe, you’re seriously misinterpreting these statements. It means we should make highway projects less expensive by eliminating transit features (“mass transit improvement requirements”), gutting environmental safety, and doubly eliminating transit features (“non-highway purposes”, which has been notoriously used to exclude rail). I’ll give permitting/torts/bonds/sales tax a pass because there may be something legitimate there, and we’ve already discussed unions. Combine that with King’s “citizens paying more at the pump, to heat their homes and for anything that is transported to market” and there’s a pattern of “cars and trucks are the only way to go, and we need more road infrastructure cheaply, and nothing else matters nearly as much”.

      I hope Republicans can offer some reasonable solutions, and that you succeed in arranging some compromises, but so far I haven’t seen it, and I’m concerned that you don’t see the anti-transit undertones in these statements. King was one of the two swing votes that lost Metro a congestion-reduction-charge replacement last year that the Legislature promised in 2012, and killed last year’s transportation bill. If he wants my support he has to say what he will do for transit, to partly make up for the damage he has done and is doing. That idea of allowing full ST3 in exchange for deleting Sounder North is a possible win-win; it’s like how King County approved Metro’s 2-year CRC in exchange for eliminating the Ride Free Area.

      1. And just so we don’t forget the damage, the lack of a long-term CRC replacement (which the 2-year CRC was a stopgap to give the legislature time to do it) forced Metro to spend a year planning for cuts. That’s a year it could have spent planning improvements and maintaining service, so it made us fall further behind. And many people worried for months about whether they should move or whether bus service would go back to 1990s levels.

      2. Mike;

        Lots of pithy stuff from you, much appreciate.

        As to, “you’re seriously misinterpreting these statements” – I could be. But what I liked was Curtis King mentioning transit in a press release. It’s a baby step and a signal that couldn’t be ignored.

        As to, “I hope Republicans can offer some reasonable solutions”, me too. It’s time for the Republican Party to come to the table with a comprehensive transit plan and explained to the more rabid in their base that, uh, there are a lot of Republicans who use transit and in order to keep the State Senate Majority so we Republicans can do a lot of off-topic stuff it’s important to make transit work.

        As to, “If he wants my support he has to say what he will do for transit, to partly make up for the damage he has done and is doing” – after his history, uh yeah I want details. No free pass because a signal was sent in a press release.

        As to, “That idea of allowing full ST3 in exchange for deleting Sounder North is a possible win-win; it’s like how King County approved Metro’s 2-year CRC in exchange for eliminating the Ride Free Area” – I’m saddened our chief editor Martin H. Duke doesn’t realize deep down that’s my agenda alongside removing a public safety risk. Give the legislative Republicans a way to declare a bipartisan big victory as Dow Constantine is no Republican and no blogger, but get ST3 on the ballot.

        As to, “the lack of a long-term CRC replacement (which the 2-year CRC was a stopgap to give the legislature time to do it) forced Metro to spend a year planning for cuts. … many people worried for months about whether they should move or whether bus service would go back to 1990s levels.” I get it, that’s the sad story of many on Whidbey Island & Camano Island thanks to Island Transit’s fiascoes. For one, I ain’t taking any jobs on Whidbey Island – hope of the EA-18Gs I love so much – because of Island Transit’s implosion. I mention this to show my empathy. The CRC was meant to hold King County Metro together until a statewide package with a balanced approach could go to voters.

        Ultimately, I reiterate – I want details from my state legislative Republicans. But today was about noting a signal was sent help just might come.

      3. Some people don’t believe Metro will ever reorganize without being forced by cuts. But I’ve seen several signs the past few years that it’s moving in that direction, and it’s gradually getting bolder to the opposition, and the county council is getting more willing to allow it. So what’s missing from the discussion is what “good reorganizations without cuts” Metro might have made in 2013 and 2014 if it hadn’t been focusing on “bad reorganizations with cuts” instead. It probably would have been more than none but less than wonderful, yet still a step in the right direction. We mustn’t focus on the continuing existence of the 2 and 25 and 12’s tail as if they’re the only important criteria and show Metro’s complete failure. Even the “Save Route 2” folks believe they’ll inevitably lose someday, and have said so for over a year.

        Kevin Desmond has a great chart showing how the ongoing population increase and ridership require proportional service increases to maintain the existing level of service. But the revenue loss in the recession turned the service arrow in the opposite direction by almost the same factor as the increase in demand. So we talked about $X in cuts when we should have talked about $X in increases, and in a post-cut scenario we’d need 2 * $X to get back to that point. The recent revenue gain brings the arrow back upward again but it doesn’t make up for the non-investment in the past few years, so even though the line is trending upward it’s lower than it should have been and will remain so for years. (Seattle’s Prop 1 is a new positive factor, but I don’t know how much it compensates for the other trends so I won’t compare it.)

      4. Mike;

        Another awesome comment. It’s frustrating how our tax code is not just regressive but set up so that it takes $2 bucks to climb as in the bad $1 for the recession hole and the good $1 for increased demand.

        It is important state Republicans who supposedly are pro-economic growth, pro-congestion relief and pro-opportunity understand this fact. We shall see.

      5. Sprawl today and sprawl tomorrow,
        Yesterday and sprawl Gomorrow>
        You want a bus?
        You want a sharrow?
        Republicant’s will give you sorrow

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