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.
— WA House Democrats (@WAHouseDems) January 4, 2018
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.