Sen. Lisa Brown: Time to invest in infrastructure

It's one way state government can address the economic turmoil of the time, says the state Senate majority leader.
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Washington Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.

It's one way state government can address the economic turmoil of the time, says the state Senate majority leader.

State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, was in Seattle Tuesday, Oct. 14, and she stopped by the Crosscut offices for a chat about the upcoming election (she foresees possible Democratic gains in both chambers) and the legislative session that starts in January (it will be a rough time no matter who is elected governor). There was an interesting meme: Despite the massive revenue shortfall and tough economic times, Brown says now might be a good time to spend money on job-creating infrastructure improvements, including transportation.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama announced months ago that he wanted to focus on improving the nation's infrastructure by fixing roads, bridges, and investing in mass transit.

That was summertime. Since, Wall Street has imploded, Congress has stepped in with a $700 billion bailout, and everyone is searching for credit — not exactly a time most people would recommend opening wallets.

Next year's legislative agenda will be dominated by the state's projected $3.2 billion revenue shortage, but Brown says infrastructure will be a priority. "It's a good time" to address the poor economy by "doing more on infrastructure ... in a job-oriented way," she says. Along with transportation, Brown hopes to allocate more financial and strategic resources to the Community Economic Revitalization Board and the Washington State Public Works Trust Fund.

Priority number one, however, is resolving "divisions around the major transportation projects around Puget Sound," Brown says. In other words, resolving the political gridlock on how to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct.

While city, county, and state officials narrowed the field to eight viaduct solutions in June, with Gov. Chris Gregoire hoping to announce a winning plan by December, don't expect to wake up on Christmas Day and find city, county, and state officials in complete agreement. Just last week, state House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, unveiled his own replacement plan, the so-called "Choppway," something he's sure to put a lot of leverage behind.

Brown says she's seeking to "play a constructive role" in resolving the impasse — more peacekeeper than power-broker.

As for the transportation issues on this year's ballot, Brown calls Initiative 985, the controversial Tim Eyman-sponsored "traffic congestion relief" measure, "a gimmick." She says implementing the measure "would be impossible without cutting education and health-care funding. It promises more than it can deliver."


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