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Legislature adjourns without passing transportation package

Rodney Tom's Senate Majority Coalition Caucus holds together to block a set of new transportation projects to be paid for by a gas-tax hike.
Transportation spending was MIA in the state's 2013-2015 budget.

Transportation spending was MIA in the state's 2013-2015 budget. Photo: Flickr User SaraiRachel

A 10-cent gas tax hike and the projects that it was supposed to fund died late Saturday afternoon in the Washington Senate. The Legislature adjourned shortly afterward.

The cause of death for the transportation package: It was a tax increase and it would have helped pay to replace the Interstate 5 bridge between Vancouver and Portland — both strongly opposed by Republicans. "Go talk to the people who'll pay the 10 cents gas tax increase," said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima and co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

While current transportation projects are funded, the absence of the new revenue package means no new project can be tackled. Many major state business interests — including the normally tax-adverse Association of Washington Business and Washington Roundtable — wanted the package passed as a jobs-creation measure.

Senate Democrats made a last-gasp attempt Saturday to put the $10 billion transportation revenue package on the floor by using a parliamentary move known as the "Ninth Order." Under the Ninth Order, senators vote on whether to put a bill on the floor directly in an attempt to bypass the majority party's leaders, who control the flow of bills to the full Senate. The majority coalition leaders did not want a floor vote on the transportation revenue package that passed the House on Thursday.

A Ninth Order vote is considered a procedural vote. Under the unwritten but strong code of the Legislature, members are theoretically allowed to vote their beliefs on bills, but are expected to stick with their caucus on procedural votes.

Prior to the Ninth Order vote, Republican Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, reminded the majority coalition members four times that this "is purely a political procedural vote."

The majority coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats held firm, winning the vote 26-21. Two minority Democrats were absent.

Meanwhile, Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, crossed the aisle to join the majority coalition on the vote. The move gives Schlicher political cover: His record won't reflect asking for a gas tax hike, a plus when he faces Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, in an expected tough and expensive race in November to replace state Sen. Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress. Schlicher was appointed to replace Kilmer and November will be his first election. His no vote on the Ninth Order matter did not affect the outcome of Saturday's showdown.

The Ninth Order vote showed the strength of the coalition of 25 senators — about two-thirds conservative and one-third moderate. The group would only split when a majority coalition deal with the House Democrats required the moderates to cast enough votes to pass a House bill in the Senate.

The death of the House package stops — at least for this year — the extension of State Route 167 in Pierce County to the Port of Tacoma. In fact, Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, cast the only public Republican vote in either chamber to raise money to pay for the State Route 167 project.

Three Republican senators from Pierce County voted against the Ninth Order motion: Randi Becker of Eatonville, Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup and Steve O'Ban of rural Pierce County. The death of the package, on Saturday, also stopped the widening of State Route 12 in Walla Walla County and the development of an interchange in Benton County's Red Mountain wine country, both heavily Republican areas. The dead revenue package would also have paid for improvements on State Route 509 in Pierce and King counties.

Gov. Jay Inslee contended that several Republican senators wanted some type of transportation revenue package to pass before the session ended. "They've been stymied by leaders who wanted to stop any package going through the Senate," said the governor. "They passed no plan for infrastructure improvements in Washington. None."

King said the majority coalition is working on its own transportation revenue package, but added, "Our package is not ready to be released."


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Comments:

Posted Sun, Jun 30, 6:48 a.m. Inappropriate

The Clibborn Bill was a "Do Something" Bill, not a do the right thing Bill. People couled have probably supported a 10 cents per gallon gas tax, but the MVET at 1.5% per $10,000 of value, the weight fees, the Councilmatic TBD going from $20 dollars per year tab fees to $40 per year. It was too much for too little. Way to much set aside for Transit, not enough for Roads, Roads Maintenance. The splits for the State and the Counties was too much, not enough for the Cities.

Cameron

Posted Sun, Jun 30, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

The bill that the House passed was full of pork. I'm glad it did not pass the Senate.

If they are going to increase the gas tax, they need to spend ALL that money on roads, and not waste any money putting light rail, bike paths and pedestrian paths across the CRC. They should not increase car tabs to give greater tax subsidies to transit riders who are freeloading off of motorists. Let transit riders start paying their own way, like motorists do.

Bottom line is that it is better to have no transportation bill at all, then to pass that piece of garbage, pork-laden bill that the House passed.

Lincoln

Posted Mon, Jul 1, noon Inappropriate

There is no need for a second bridge between Portland and Vancouver to begin with, let alone the disaster they've spent so much money planning.

NotFan

Posted Sun, Jun 30, 1:14 p.m. Inappropriate

This is good. Wsdot is NOT trustworthy. Period. THE BORE TUNNEL MUST BE STOPPED.
ALL RELATED SEATTLE STREET RECONFIGURATIONS are highly questionable.
Why are Seattlers NOT ones to question City Hall minions and ignoble decrees?
Wsdot is also to blame for the CRC fiasco FYI.
THE WORST engineering designs imaginable peddled by gratuitous PR salesperson/graduates posing as imminently qualified public servantry. Thank your good republican representatives for voting against a horror that progressive and supposedly literate democrats don't see as some sort of class war crime.

Hey boys. Let's do Seattle again. We already done our worst.
What's the worst of the worst we could do? Uuh..DBT?

Wells

Posted Sun, Jun 30, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

" Many major state business interests — including the normally tax-adverse Association of Washington Business and Washington Roundtable — wanted the package passed as a jobs-creation measure."

I interpret this sentence to mean that this bill was so good and so necessary that the AWB and the WR (yes, even those guys) supported it. Where is the surprise? contractors, suppliers, engineers and distributors of everything to be used in these projects are charter members of the above two organizations. They, perhaps even more than the construction unions, benefit from highway and bridge projects. When have they ever counseled caution on major public projects? has it ever happened? yet Mr. Stang holds them out as virtually disinterested observers. Fortunately I know why, otherwise I would have to wonder why.

kieth

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 12:02 p.m. Inappropriate

kieth, how about telling the rest of us why? This is not a rhetorical question. I'm genuinely curious.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 1:37 p.m. Inappropriate

I thought it was obvious. Mr. Stang uses information that is helpful to Democrats or their policies. I think it's hard for him to see that Republicans (and their fellow travelers) have reasonable arguments and he probably would not write them in Crosscut even if he were able to do so. He is a press agent for the Democratic party. This does not violate any journalistic ethics but it makes for less than perceptive coverage of his chosen subject.

kieth

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 6:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Your phrasing made me think that there was a more direct conflict of interest. That's why I asked for a followup. Is he literally a "press agent for the Democratic Party," current or former, or was that a rhetorical statement?

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 2:23 a.m. Inappropriate

Really weird since the Republicans such as Kemper Freeman are for more freeways yet republicans don't want to extend 12, 167, 509, and add more lanes on I-5.

What is wrong with these Republicans? Sometimes you have to raise gas taxes with deteriorating infrastructure. I am normally anti-tax but remember that low gas mileage in congestion also costs the taxpayer money!

These Republicans are not thinking logically. They need to listen to Kemper Freeman and his Engineers.

@Lincoln - YOU ARE CORRECT that the 19th amendment to the Washington State constitution, approved by Voter Initiative in 1947, PREVENTS gas tax monies for non highway purposes. As for BIKE LANES, they would be perfect along 167 out to the port of tacoma, so find some other funding source.

A model freeway for 167 is the Legacy Parkway in Utah, with bike lanes in a wetland area similar to along the Puyallup River leading to the port of tacoma. The Mormons (and others in Utah) are very progressive in building freeways that don't harm the environment - What ashame that we don't share their attitude toward transportation - Photos -

http://smartgrowthusa.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/seattle-gridlock-light-rail-or-salt-lake-city-legacy-parkway/

TomLane

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 6:26 p.m. Inappropriate

If you want bike lanes, then let's have bicycles pay vehicle taxes. No? Then forget about broad support for bike lanes.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 11:36 p.m. Inappropriate

That would be fine, and also note that cyclists are highly philanthropic and often build their own trails - Look up the Mountains to Sound Greenway and the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA).

TomLane

Posted Tue, Jul 2, 1:43 p.m. Inappropriate

If the "highly philanthropic" ones want to finance the various bicycle lobby demands, fine. If not, then a bicycle use tax.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jul 2, 2:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Better yet, let's tax cars and bikes at their value as we once did in Washington state.
My bike costs one hundred dollars--your car was what, $20k? Would you like that in two quarters, or a roll of pennies?

jeffro

Posted Tue, Jul 2, 3:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's tax bikes at the same rate as mopeds. But that wouldn't fly, because bicyclists are no different than babies who want to be fed but cannot contribute.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 10:07 a.m. Inappropriate

I would like to support increased taxes to support our transportation infrastructure; and a hefty gas tax increase in the overall backdrop of large gas price fluctuations.. seems to be a good source. That being said, I have no confidence in our current state leadership in its ability to efficiently manage large transportation projects. We make major mistakes, projects cost way more than they should (and we pay sales tax to the general fund as we go!); and the priorities just don't seem to jive with what we need. Put our house in order and then lets talk!

greben1

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 11:42 p.m. Inappropriate

It's incredible that the state cannot manage these big projects. PRivate coalitions such as Freeman et. al. developed plans 10 years ago ! Freeman hires the best engineer, Dr. William Eagar, who has circled the Pacific Rim studying transportation and written a book on it.
See, for the 2004 plan of Freeman et. al. -
http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2001836160_kemper14m.html

TomLane

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

The logical followup would be to reassess King County transit spending, and shift money away from Sound Transit and toward King County Metro. But that's not going to happen, because the "progressives" of Seattle are not, in the end, interested in effective transit. For them, it's all about the shiny project and the expensive fiefdoms.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 11:45 p.m. Inappropriate

The word "progressive" means favoring progress or reform, it is not the same as "liberal" which means to be "tolerant, generous, and open minded."

So one could be a "progressive independent" (as I am) or a "pro. conservative" and still advocate building more freeways, since this would solve the Seattle area congestion problem.

TomLane

Posted Tue, Jul 2, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

We definitely need more road capacity. We're wasting big money on rail.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 6:29 p.m. Inappropriate

King said the majority coalition is working on its own transportation revenue package, but added, "Our package is not ready to be released."

Epic FAIL bolstered by nothing but excuses. Rodney Tom must be so proud.

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 6:33 p.m. Inappropriate

Ah yes, another Seattle "progressive" personal attack. It's all Kumbaya until you don't get your way, isn't it?

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 1, 6:31 p.m. Inappropriate

By the way, does this mean that the subsidy for the Cascades train is going away? I sure hope so. The average Cascades passenger has a household income of $75,000. That's nearly 50% higher than the state average. The Cascades train should not be subsidized by WA State taxpayers at the behest of affluent train buffs who can afford to pay their own way. It's time that those fares be set to recoup 100% of operating costs, plus a sinking fund for capital replacement.

NotFan

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