Tomorrow in Olympia at 3:30pm, the House Transportation Committee will hold its only public comment session on its portion of the transportation package. The starting point is the basket of bills the Republican-led Senate already passed that comprise the package.
The Committee is pointedly not considering the series of “reform bills,” like the one that would exempt WSDOT projects (read: highways) from sales tax, effectively diverting money from transit, local government, and the general fund to road uses. Instead, it will consider ESSB 5987 and 5988, the revenue (including ST3 authorization) and appropriations bills, respectively.
The Senate package amounts to the rightmost possible outcome for a transportation program. The House might pass its own version and enter conference committee, subject to approval from both houses; or the two leaderships might reach a deal and the House could simply pass it. So either no transportation package will become law, or the new program will lie ideologically somewhere between the Senate and House visions.
That’s why it’s important that the House gather evidence of public support for the progressive elements of the proposed package, especially new funding options for Sound, Community, and Kitsap Transit. In particular, there is a big difference between $11.2 billion of revenue over 15 years, as the Senate authorized, and the $15 billion Sound Transit requested. I did a crude analysis to show how much more $15 billion of taxes can buy. Sound Transit has been very reluctant to attach actual projects to its funding requests, but I did get spokesman Geoff Patrick to state that “Anything less than full authority for $15 billion in new revenue would not allow Sound Transit to meet the objectives of voters for high capacity transit in the Sound Transit District.”
Anyhow, a good showing from transit advocates tomorrow would help create a good outcome. Here are instructions for testimony. The second best way to contribute is to contact any representative on the Committee from your district. Many of these districts are ones far less likely to get light rail from a smaller revenue package. And while you’re at it, point out that the appropriations bill spends not enough on maintenance, and in fact makes the maintenance burden worse with lots of new lane-miles.