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Election 2012: Washington gubernatorial candidates weigh in on transportation
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

A new governor will be seated in Washington state following the Nov. 6 election. The candidates competing for outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s position have weighed in on various transportation issues along the campaign trail.

The two major party candidates vying to replace her are Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna. One issue that will confront the winner is a transportation system in need of upgrades.

A year ago a governor-appointed task force recommended that Washington state raise $20 billion during the next decade to fund the state’s transportation system. The “Connecting Washington Task Force” offered possible funding methods that included fuel tax increases, higher vehicle fees and tolls.

McKenna, the state’s attorney general, said that voters should soon get to decide on a funding plan that includes a project list. Likely funding methods he would pursue include a fuel tax increase and tolls.

Inslee, a former congressman, also indicated that he wants the public to get their say on the issue in the next couple of years. He has said that the most important step to take for transportation is strengthening the public’s trust and confidence in state officials to make good decisions with revenue already available to the state.

McKenna has indicated the same desire. He said there is no more time to do studies about ways to improve infrastructure. Instead, action is needed.

Both candidates have expressed interest in looking at alternative funding methods, such as public-private partnerships, to get needed transportation work done.

“Public-private partnerships can be a useful tool in funding transportation infrastructure,” McKenna said during one debate. “... We need to attract private capital in addition to the public dollars we have to raise.”

Inslee has said that all proposals are on the table. He cited more fuel-efficient vehicles and transit, which have reduced the effectiveness of fuel taxes to pay for needed projects.

“We should look at multiple avenues and decide the ones that work. And I’ve seen public-private partnerships work,” Inslee said at a June debate.

“Now as in many things the devil is indeed in the details. And we do need to make sure that we have tough negotiators, negotiating any contract with a private entity.”

Ballots for the Nov. 6 elections in Washington state will be mailed out this week.

For more 2012 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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