$15B transportation package takes big step in Senate

The $15 billion transportation package took a big step forward yesterday when the Senate voted out two of three funding measures. Late last week the Senate voted out all eight transportation-reform bills.

The bill that includes the 11.7-cent gas-tax increase and other funding measures SSB 5987 passed on a vote of 27-22. The appropriations/spending bill SB 5988 passed on a vote of 41-8.

AGC thanks the 212 members who responded to the “action alert” and sent messages to their Senators last week! Your voices were heard!

Action on the bills stalled over the weekend as Sen. Annette Cleveland asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen presiding over the Senate whether the funding bill violated the Senate’s recently enacted rule requiring a 2/3 vote on all new tax measures (but not increases to existing taxes). On Monday the Lt. Gov. ruled that the entire 2/3 rule is unconstitutional; this allowed the funding bill to move forward but it could be a ruling that could come into play later in the legislative session.

For a list of projects that would be funded by the package (this has been revised since published in the previous AGC Works) click here.

The final element of the package – the bond bill SB 5989 – has not been voted on yet.  As a bond bill it will need 60 votes to pass which complicates the political calculus for Senate leaders. 

The ten bills that were passed now move over to the House of Representatives so there is still a way to go before final passage. Nevertheless the action by the Republican-controlled Senate was a huge step. AGC thanks the primary Senate negotiators --  Transportation Committee Chair Curtis King (R-14) Ranking Minority Member Steve Hobbs (D-44) Sen. Joe Fain (R-47) and Sen. Marko Liias (D-21).

All of the reform bills passed – which is good news – but there was a disappointment along the way:  the proposal to eliminate prevailing wages on off-site work was stripped out of SB 5993. That bill however still reduces the apprentice requirement from 15 to 13% but only through 2020 (rather than 2025 as originally proposed).

Another contentious bill was the one regarding the sales tax on construction projects.  It passed 26-23 on a party-line vote (all Majority Coalition Caucus members for Democratic Caucus against). 

A recap of the reform bills:
ESB 5995 (add congestion relief to the transportation system policy goal of mobility): This bill was amended and passed 49-0.
ESSB 5997 (design/build encouraged over $10M): This bill was amended and passed 49-0.
ESSB 5996 (streamlined permitting; report engineering errors): This bill was amended and passed 47-2.
ESSB 5994 (No local permits needed for state transportation corridor projects): This bill was amended and passed 30-19.
SSB 5992 (Ferry vessel construction): This bill was amended and passed 48-1.
SSB 5991 (Small slice of MTCA – hazardous waste clean-up funds – for WSDOT stormwater projects):  This bill was amended and passed 27-22.
ESB 5993 (apprenticeship reform; prevailing wage reforms removed): This bill was amended and passed 48-1.
ESSB 5990 (Transferring certain state sales and use taxes collected on transportation projects to the connecting Washington account): This bill was amended and passed 26-23.

The vote on the funding/gas tax increase bill:
Voting Yea: Senator Angel Bailey Baumgartner Becker Braun Brown Conway Dammeier Darneille Fain Hatfield Hewitt Hill Hobbs Honeyford King Liias Litzow Miloscia Mullet OBan Parlette Pedersen Rivers Schoesler Sheldon Warnick. (19 Republicans 8 Democrats)
Voting Nay: Senator Benton Billig Chase Cleveland Dansel Ericksen Fraser Frockt Habib Hargrove Hasegawa Jayapal Keiser Kohl-Welles McAuliffe McCoy Nelson Padden Pearson Ranker Roach Rolfes. (6 Republicans 16 Democrats)

The vote on the spending/appropriations bill:
Voting Yea: Senator Angel Bailey Baumgartner Becker Billig Braun Brown Chase Conway Dammeier Darneille Fain Fraser Frockt Habib Hasegawa Hatfield Hewitt Hill Hobbs Honeyford Jayapal Keiser King Kohl-Welles Liias Litzow McAuliffe McCoy Miloscia Mullet Nelson OBan Parlette Pedersen Ranker Rivers Rolfes Schoesler Sheldon Warnick. (19 Republicans 22 Democrats)
Voting Nay: Senator Benton Cleveland Dansel Ericksen Hargrove Padden Pearson Roach. (6 Republicans 2 Democrats)

For more information contact AGC’s Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood 360.352.5000.