Washington state to go public with transportation talks?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, August 15, 2013

In the aftermath of a failed effort this year to boost transportation funding at the Washington statehouse, one leading lawmaker is pushing to take the conversation to the public.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, is the co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. King released a package of transportation reforms that the public can hear about during a series of planned meetings around the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee and House Democrats this year sought a nearly $9 billion tax package that included a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for roads, bridges and transit work.

Republicans, who lead the Senate, instead wanted a transportation reform package before discussion shifted to increasing the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax.

The two sides failed to reach agreement delaying until next year another turn at coming up with a transportation funding plan.

King said that in order to pass a transportation package of any substance there will likely be a need for additional revenue to pay for projects.

“But before we go to the public asking for more money, the state needs to prove that it’s already stretching every dollar it has,” King said in a news release.

In the lead-up to the fall meetings he released a list of 10 reforms that could be implemented to save money. King said he wants the public to look it over and provide feedback for lawmakers before they kick off the 2014 regular session.

One reform option would return sales taxes from transportation work to the transportation budget. King said the shift would raise nearly $400 million for bridge work during the next decade.

Other plans include tapping public-private partnerships to get work done. Also, King wants to talk about ensuring that toll revenues are spent on projects within the corridor tolled.

King called on Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson to help coordinate the public meetings.

The proposed dates and locations of the public meetings:

  • Sept. 18, WSDOT Olympic region office in Tacoma;
  • Sept. 24, WSDOT Southwest region office in Vancouver;
  • Oct. 1, WSDOT Northwest region office in Seattle;
  • Oct. 7, WSDOT Northwest region office in Everett;
  • Oct. 14, WSDOT North Central region office in Wenatchee;
  • Oct. 22, WSDOT Eastern region office in Spokane; and
  • Oct. 30, WSDOT South Central region office in Tri-Cities.
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