Last week The Stranger published a wide-ranging interview with Governor Inslee, whose stated purpose was to drum up the grassroots for his carbon tax proposal. He doesn’t criticize legislators directly, but you certainly get the impression speaker Frank Chopp (D-Capitol Hill) isn’t exactly out in front of the climate activists.

When legislators want something to be a priority, they don’t create arbitrary additional obstacles for passage. See additional Stranger anonymous sources on Chopp here. Perhaps, as leader of his caucus, Speaker Chopp is saying that not all his Democrats are on board, and he won’t force them to take a tough vote. In any case, he certainly isn’t directing the full powers of his office at the problem.

But enough about carbon taxes. More to our usual subject, Heidi Groover asks what you’re all wondering:

HG: If a bill that changes that car tab valuation but does not backfill that money for Sound Transit is on your desk, will you sign it?

GUV: We want to make sure that we can maintain the ability to fulfill the voters’ desires, which is to finish that line. We’ve got to remain committed to that. I would evaluate any proposal on whether it finds a way to, in fact, fulfill that commitment. I haven’t had a chance to look at the details of what’s moving at the moment, so I can’t tell you whether that does or does not do that. I’m told there is some backfill from Department of Transportation, land which is essentially surplus, which would backfill some of these funds. But that is not a—I don’t have the total details on that.

HG: But the bills that have been moving the quickest don’t have any backfill. They just restructure the evaluation in a way that effectively cuts—

GUV: My understanding is that somewhere in this legislative process, there will be some backfill. My understanding is it will come from a DOT surplus fund of assets we’re not using essentially.

HG: Would you commit to not signing a bill if it did not include that backfill?

GUV: No, because I think through these things and if it’s connected to a thousand other things and cures cancer at the same time—sometimes, if it cures cancer, I might sign it.

HG: But that’s not the situation—

GUV: I am committed to getting this job done. And I’ve been quite vocal with legislative leaders about it. So that’s why I’m glad DOT, as I understand, has come through.

Governor Inslee is clearly not going to be cornered into making a promise here, but he’s stated a principle that most transit advocates can get behind — that Sound Transit’s budget must be made whole. As Democratic votes are distributed inefficiently among the legislative districts, the Governor’s statewide majority is a bit more secure than the legislative one, so perhaps he can afford to be the bad guy here. We’ll see if it comes to that, and if he’s going to stick to his principles.

12 Replies to “Inslee: We Must Finish ST3 Projects”

  1. “Last December, Inslee called for a $20-per-ton tax on carbon emissions with the first $1 billion raised to pay for some near-term school improvements ordered by the Washington Supreme Court.”

    “For political and economic reasons, school funding has disappeared from the push for a carbon tax. Consequently, there is no life-or-death budgetary reason to pass a carbon tax. So, the tax focuses solely on trimming carbon pollution and its ripple effects, while helping people dealing with global warming.”

    [OT]

  2. No fan of Jay Inslee for many reasons. His wishy-washy nonsense that inspires little confidence.

    I do think we need to make clear that ST3’s three prongs of more light rail, BRT and ORCA Next Gen have to be kept whole. This is coming from the guy who wants a lot more transit internships out of the Education Trust Fund… but I’d rather see us get these projects done. Frankly we needed light rail to Lynnwood in 2016, not 2024!

  3. It would be wrong to change the total amount collected in taxes. We need to get this project done, one way or the other.

    If our government, through the people, believe that the method of calculation for determining the tax is unfair, then it should be changed. But it must be changed in a revenue-neutral way.

    People who own newer and more expensive cars are upset that the current system overcharges them. That may be the case. But the solution cannot be to simply lower the tax on those individuals. Clearly, a new depreciation schedule that depreciates an expensive, newer car faster will also raise the tax on my 9-year-old Volvo. If that is a fair method of depreciation, then so be it. But we need to understand that the tax money will be collected. The only question to be discussed in amending the depreciation schedule should be how to allocate the tax among taxpayers.

    The result is going to be that owners of more expensive cars will benefit while a larger number of owners of less expensive vehicles will bear a larger tax burden. Correcting an error in the depreciation schedule is one thing. Using it as an excuse to cut tax collection and thus underfund the project is an unacceptable choice. This should not be an excuse to gut the project.

    1. It’s not an error, it’s a different standard. People are upset that the formula has a higher curve than the Kelly Blue Book, and that may be unfair and change-worthy but it’s not wrong. The argument against using the Blue Book is to not make the government dependent on private organizations’ estimates.

  4. The ST2 and ST3 budget estimates have been hit multiple times: the MVET evaluation, the higher than expected costs of Lynnwood Link, and potential reductions in FTA contributions. All could impact project delivery. Delay helps cure the budget gap through more years of revenue. Making ST whole is complex and has many margins. Paramount duty has a good ring to it.

  5. Martin – in future posts I’d recommend putting the information that is pertinent to the headline and of greatest interest to STB readers (in this case, Inslee’s comments on ST3) up front, then moving onto the secondary stuff (his carbon tax proposal). This piece has it the other way around.

    1. My guess is that the bulk of the STB readership are interested in carbon taxes and have no trouble navigating the few paragraphs until the story about about ST3. Last time I checked this was “Seattle Transit Blog”, not “Sound Transit Blog” or “All About Puget Sound Rail Blog”. A carbon tax — however unlikely — is as relevant to transit as is one particular transit project. Higher gas prices leads to more transit use which leads to better transit. Therefore, It isn’t hard to argue that a carbon tax would have a bigger impact on transit than ST3.

      It seems that your only complaint is with the headline — fair enough. How about “Governor is Awesome — Struggles with Shortsighted Legislature”.

    2. James, thanks for the note. You seem focused on things like “interest” and “logic”, while I pursue page views by making you click
      ;-)

      Seriously, this stared out as a carbon tax post before it veered into ST stuff.

  6. http://www.airships.net/lz127-graf-zeppelin/size-speed-statistics/

    Question from US history: How many row-boats would the Revolutionaries have needed to dump one ton of carbon emissions into Elliott Bay? Bet Shoreline Management forgot about that one. And since nobody even knows what a carbon emissions-bag looks like…too bad about the Hindenburg.

    Because I think fair deal for the taxpaying motorists is to figure out what pecentage of a ton of carbon emissions their car weighs, and take their own total percentage of carbon tax off their tabs.

    But to motivate the legislature to pass funds for both ST-3 and education: When every student in an entire high school graduating class can correctly do the calculation, including the total lost value of motorists’ cars to traffic jams from lack of transit…the Court lets the Legislature out of jail.

    Meantime, given our States’ and Country’s current survival priority, reading and math should be optional for graduation, but skills of actual Governing mandatory. Voting age 16, or ten years after first LINK ride, whichever is shorter. Final exam? Run for State legislator- which you can walk out of your graduation and become.

    College tuition free ’til you win something. Joe, will even change sides on Elected boards.

    Mark

    1. The emissions would have to be in a big box, otherwise they’d escape to the sky when you try to dump them. Or you could have a pressurized container with a hose and nozzle like a gasoline pump, and pump it underwater, but that wouldn’t be dumping. The fish might not like it either.

      1. Opposition might get more of my sympathy, meaning only slightly less than none, if it didn’t remind me so much of somebody who should’ve known better walking around in period costume that really demanded kegs of whip cream and chocolate syrup gurgling down to Howard Schultz’s Locker in Green Lake.

        Even worse, couple pennies’ tax on soda pop. Both of which could, and did, get completely blown a-lee by a ten cent price increase from the dealer. What else- like for instance gasoline- and cars- are going to have same thing happen?. Houses too. With not a single Democrat on the Board of either. Or better not be.

        Reason I want everybody from middle school up to spend their whole academic regimen learning to run a democracy. Starting with the revolution so far overdue to get themselves something worth governing. When was there ever anything that so desperately needing to have kids rebel against it?

        Also great for math and science. Isn’t trigonometry the one you need for a rifle with a longer range than an AR15?

        MD

  7. Yeah, trick question. But how big a parking space in your condo basement would you need for a trailer carrying of a ton of carbon emissions? Please let my math teacher go. He’ll turn in his pro-ST-5 ballot, but wants to do it in person so he can get his first LINK ride downstairs at IDS! Whichever platform!

    See above.

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