Friday, Jan 9th, TCC hosted a brown bag preview of the 2015 legislation session as it relates to transit. While the session has already kicked off, the main points of the discussion are relevant going forward.
Most importantly, the two legislative champions on the panel, Marko Liias and Jessyn Farrell, were pretty upbeat about transportation package passage. Senator Liias said he was much more optimistic now than he was even a few months ago. Ironically, Governors Inslee’s strong support for a VMT/carbon tax has forced Republican’s to come out strongly in support for a “large” gas tax increase instead, something they have not done historically.
Senator Liias spent a lot of time explaining what it meant being in the minority. He went so far as to say that the initial bill he will likely vote out of the Senate will only be 70% acceptable. It will be up to the House to get it to something palatable. He made this point a couple times a couple different ways. This actually makes me pretty optimistic as I picked up a definite ‘Please don’t crucify me for my vote’ vibe, which he wouldn’t be worried about if he didn’t think a vote would happen.
On the House side, Representative Farrell assured the crowd that no package will make it out that doesn’t get the Puget Sound what it needs (more transit). She said she would not vote for a package that doesn’t help her district, where pedestrian safety in particular is a high-priority issue. Representative Farrell also stressed that she would like WSDOT to continue to evolve its practices, including a reexamination of traffic forecasting. She also believe that the State has a clear interest in transit, including capital and operating funds, especially along corridors like I-5 where transit improvements improve the efficiency of state facilities.
Overall, the sentiment seemed to be that a package will get done, it will have funding authority for Sound Transit and Community Transit, but it will not be the package that changes the trajectory of the state’s transportation spending.