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The special session is already well underway, as budget negotiators try to find a deal on the operating and capital budget. The transportation budget and a transportation fee bill passed in the final hours of the regular session, but a very important bill to give more local options to local governments including transit agencies, did not. This local options bill is in play during the special session, and we will continue to work this bill to the very end.
During regular session, legislators received more than 2,750 letters supporting transit and safer streets. It paid off; there were significant wins in the supplemental transportation budget. We were able to fend of the $10 million sweep of multi-modal funds that the Governor proposed, and the budget funds a task force to look at the transition from the gas tax to a road user assessment system of paying for transportation.
Also, the legislature passed HB 2660 to raise transportation-related fees. The new fees are expended in the transportation budget. The budget dedicates $9 million in this biennium for public transit operating grants. Even though the amount is small, it is significant because this is the first time since the MVET was repealed, that the State is dedicating transit operating funds. Unfortunately, in final negotiations the legislators agreed to phase out this grant program in 3 years, so we will have to continually work to make sure transit gets a fairer share of the transportation budget. New transportation related fees are also dedicated to the Safe Routes to Schools grant program ($2.25m).
The regular session also brought a few very important policy wins.
Safe and Flexible Street Design (HB1700, Rep. Fitzgibbon) - Allows the use of updated guidelines for designing for bike and pedestrian uses, to increase safety and reduce costs of projects.
Personal Car Sharing (HB 2384, Rep. Hudgins) - Removes barriers to peer to peer car sharing (P2P), clearing the way for pioneering companies to set up shop in Washington.
Our work continues in special session, to pass the Local Options Bill (SB 6582). As currently negotiated, the bill will give cities and county councils the ability to approve up to $40 car tab, council manically. King County could seek voter approval of a motor vehicle excise tax up to 1%, and transit agencies in urban areas could seek a motor vehicle excise tax up to 1% by creating a new transportation benefit district. The bill also creates a unique program in King County to encourage affordable housing at transit stations.