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One of the reasons why you haven’t heard much from me lately – besides a difficult work-life balance – is because your resident Republican is not too happy over the Senate Transportation Package.  I’d like to explain why in my own words, although our Senior Editor did great covering State Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Senator Curtis King’s public statement on Sound Transit taxation authority.

We the People have got Republican legislators down there in Olympia who demand a 2/3rds supermajority or public vote on taxes to the point of attempting to write that into the State Senate rules.  But same legislators won’t send to voters the Senate proposed gas tax increase as if somehow Republican supporters like I will just magically forgive this epic slight that resulted in a historic Lt. Governor ruling against the 2/3rds rule for legislators to approve tax increases.  The argument being according to Senator King’s spokeswoman Liz Coleman who e-mailed back, “The transit issue is part of a local option. The legislature doesn’t have the authority to change the tax structure of just one municipality or jurisdiction. However, if the residents of an area want to vote to raise their own local taxes to pay for services for their area, they have that option.”  Sure, great but why not put the gas tax up to a statewide vote as well for ideological consistency to marry actions with Republican rhetoric if nothing else?

We’ve got Republican legislators who sure demand “local control” for a lot of things, including transit.  But Republican legislators are cutting into the taxation authority for Sound Transit to submit to voters.  At least the State Senate has sent to the State House a transportation package with these grant amounts:

  • Special Needs Transportation Grant Program: $160 M total new over 16 years (adds $20 M per biennium to Base)
  • Rural Mobility Grant Program: $90 M total new over 16 years (adds $11.25 M per biennium to Base)
  • Vanpool Grant Program: $21 M total new over 16 years (adds $2.625 M per biennium to Base)
  • Regional Mobility Grant Program: $140 M total new over 16 years (adds $17.5 M per biennium to Base) (but not sure if Base is $40 M or $50 M per biennium)

So I guess we’re going to be having WSDOT grants influence local transit agencies and improve connectivity to neighboring transit agencies.  The problem is, these grants likely won’t fix the Whidbey to/from Skagit and the Camano to/from Everett Tri-County Connector segments.  Furthermore, some of these grants are meant to be “startup” grants only which means after 4 years the recipient transit agency is/agencies are supposed to find other forms of funding.

At least we’re having a conversation about “congestion relief”.  Again, I refer you to this graphic as to what genuine congestion relief would look like….

At least Representative Dave Hayes “gets it”, he’s fighting to save the Tri-County Connectors which is something you just don’t see out of many legislators of the Republican party fighting to save specific, vital transit service.  But it would sure be nice if we had support for Community Transit’s local option from him too, which has passed the State Senate.

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