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$16B transportation package advances in Senate

$16B transportation package advances in Senate – A new $16-billion, 16-year transportation package has been introduced in the Legislature, and has garnered the endorsement of AGC of Washington, although AGC will continue to seek some improvements to the measure as it works its way through the process.

Below are links to the pertinent information about the package. Note particularly the Highway and Other Capital Projects list:

The package includes a $3-billion additional investment in preservation and maintenance (P/M).  AGC appreciates that this is a major, overdue investment in P/M, although AGC believes an even larger investment from the excess revenue in the general fund is in order given the needs across the state. Other elements of the package of particular interest to the AGC are $1.4 billion to make whole current projects, such as the Puget Sound Gateway and SR 520 West End projects that were hit by covid-related revenue losses, and $2.6 billion for new projects, including $1 billion for the Columbia River Crossing bridge replacement project.

The measure includes an unprecedented transfer of funding from the general fund: a one-time $2-billion transfer, as well as a requirement that the construction sales tax on new projects remains in transportation rather than going to the general fund — a $403-million shift. AGC supports a larger, and permanent, transfer from the general fund. Plus, the revenue includes using nearly $1 billion in existing bonding authority and assumes $3.4 billion from the federal infrastructure bill.

The bill includes $5.4 billion from the Climate Commitment Act (cap and trade) passed last year.  AGC opposed that legislation, but nevertheless it contained language that proceeds would be spent for non-highway transportation purposes such as transit, electrification of the transportation sector and the like. That $5.4 billion is already raised and committed, so is not part of the new revenue in the package.

“I am committed to a transportation package this year,” said Sen. Tim Sheldon before the vote in the Senate Transportation Committee. “I don’t like everything in it, but I have to vote to keep the package moving forward. If we skip another year, inflation catches up with us, and we lose jobs that we would have had. It has to be done.” On Feb. 15, the revenue portion of the package passed on a 11-5 vote out of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The bill is of course not without controversy. It does not include a gas-tax increase, as previous packages have. Instead, it imposes a six-cent per gallon tax on fuel exported out of the state from the refineries in the state. Neighboring states have already expressed concerns about that, as have Washington’s refineries. Plus, the bill has fee increases involving drivers’ licenses and plates, and gives, but does not enact, local revenue options to local governments.

In 2021, AGC set a list of priorities for any transportation package. Those are:

  • Finish what we started
  • Provide significantly more resources for preservation and maintenance
  • Fully fund WSDOT’s court-ordered fish-passage replacement obligations
  • Fund significant new projects

This package addresses all those areas, although AGC will seek even more funding for preservation and new projects.

“This package is key for an accessible, sustainable future in Washington’s transportation sector,” said Rep. Jake Fey, Chair of the House Transportation Committee. “We’ve worked hard over the last two years to listen to communities all across Washington, and they told us that their top priorities included preserving our infrastructure, finishing projects we’ve started, taking action against climate change, expanding multi-modal options, and addressing the harm of past transportation policies. I’m proud that this package reflects all those things to invest in every Washington community.”

For more information contact AGC’s Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 425.279.3755.

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