With the operating budget finally in the books, a potential transportation package is the Legislature’s only remaining big issue. This economy-boosting package passed overwhelmingly in the Senate last night on a 39-9 vote. Its fate now rests in the House.
This is the right package at the right time. It makes positive reforms that conservatives have advocated for years, and also prevents some really bad ideas from being enacted. It will help commuters, move people and goods more efficiently, improve safety, and make Washington more economically competitive.
Some key facts about the package:
- Only this package will prevent implementation of a low-carbon fuel standard, which estimates show could cost you an extra buck a gallon. The transportation package includes a provision to stop this. If the package doesn’t pass, that protection won’t make it into law.
- One important reform in the package: ending the practice of charging sales tax on materials in transportation projects. That means all of your gas tax dollars will go toward important projects, instead of a portion being diverted to the state general fund.
- This package is all about supporting the private economy and helping our state thrive economically. It’s a “jobs bill” in the truest sense, putting skilled laborers to work and building a foundation for the private sector to grow and create new jobs.
The package would fund projects that our vital for Washington. From the Seattle Times:
- The finish of the Highway 520 replacement, from Lake Washington to Interstate 5, $1.6 billion;
- The North Spokane Corridor, $879 million to finish a half-built freeway so that it reaches to I-90;
- The Puget Sound Gateway Project, $1.9 billion to build a 6-mile extension of Highway 167 from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma, and to extend Highway 509 from SeaTac to I-5.
- I-405 from Renton to Bellevue, $1.2 billion to widen the clogged corridor.
- Interstate 90’s Snoqualmie Pass East project, receiving $426 million to finish the six-lane corridor from Lake Keechelus to Easton to provide better safety, lane space and animal crossings.
- Joint Base Lewis-McChord, $494 million for additional I-5 lanes and improved junctions in a chronically congested area.
There is so much in this package for conservatives to celebrate. The Senate Republicans insisted on the inclusion of key elements that will improve WSDOT and spend taxpayer dollars effectively. Passing the package would mean getting a big return from a small rise in the gas tax. Not passing it would mean the Inslee administration could still implement a low-carbon fuel standard that would raise your gas prices but not raise money for important transportation projects. The choice is obvious.