Don’t ask voters to pay more for transpo unless they get more in return

Governor Inslee has called the Legislature back for another special session, seeking to pass tax incentives for Boeing and a transportation package to keep the 777X production line in Washington. There has been some confusion over whether the special session is actually necessary to keep the production line here and whether a transportation package has to be done now or can wait until the regular session. On top of that, the contract vote by the Machinists is far from a done deal.

Our state does need a new round of transportation investments. Voters should have the final say on any transportation package, and that means legislators need to put together a package that voters can see has value, helps our state’s competitiveness, and improves congestion. It’s time to complete funding for the 520 bridge and finish SR 167, among other important projects.

Voters want more than just seeing important projects on the list, though. They want to know they’re transportation taxes are being used efficiently. Legislators must demand that reforms are included in the final transportation package, whenever that may occur.

A good place to start would be to end the practice of charging sales tax on transportation construction. This results in gas tax money, which is constitutionally required to be used on transportation projects, being transferred to the general fund. Motorists who pay plenty in gas taxes should at least have the assurance that those funds are dedicated to improving our roads. The state should also consider ways to reduce permitting timelines and costs.

Simply put, voters should never be asked to pay more unless they are being given more in return – not just new projects, but better management and delivery of those projects. That should be true whether legislators hurry on a transportation package or take their time.

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.