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The 2015 legislative session, which will be upon us soon, is no easy thing to predict when it comes to transportation. What we know is the House is still controlled by pro-transit Democrats, the Senate is more strongly controlled by Republicans hailing from the suburbs and rural areas, the Governor wants to take action on climate, and the whole session will be dominated a contentious need for revenue in order to deal with McCleary mandate to fully fund education in the State.
What we know:
- Senate Republican leadership claims they still want to pass a statewide package on transportation. However, they chose not to vote on a transportation package passed by the House which included funding for transit, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the 2014 session, which we strongly supported. It is unlikely this dynamic will change anytime soon.
- Last year, of the total transportation package passed by the House, transit, bike and ped's share was 7%. You read that right, 7%. And that was the historically high water mark. For context,at the federal level (including the Republican-controlled House), transit's share is 20%. It seems reasonable that if that Washington can do 20%, in this Washington, 7% must be starting point for any statewide package discussion, not an ending one.
- The State needs general revenue. The Governor wants to price carbon. In principle, we support the idea of pricing carbon as it is a crucial component of addressing climate change. That said, transportation accounts for 45% of the State's carbon emissions, the majority of which come from personal automobiles. We believe that any carbon pricing plan must significantly fund sustainable transportation options, namely transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure. In addition it must mitigate impacts on low-income communities and people of color through investments in transit-oriented affordable housing and more transit service and energy rebates. Lastly, any money spent from carbon pricing should undergo a rigorous screen to prove the investments will lead to a net reduction of CO2 emissions. In other words, zero of these dollars should go towards roadway expansions.
- The State is never going to meet the transportation needs of the rapidly growing Puget Sound region.The Legislature should let themselves off the hook and allow the Puget Sound Region to raise their own tax dollarsto invest in Sound Transit 3 expansion, roadway maintenance, and bike/pedestrian needs. We strongly support new revenue sources for Sound Transit 3. Our region can't afford to wait.
We'll be working on a host of other issues including preserving the successful Commute Trip Reduction tax credit, making sure single-occupancy vehicles aren't allowed in the already broken HOV system, advocating for transit within the current state transportation budget, and supporting our partners on the expansion of the Safe Routes to Schools program. Stay tuned to the blog for more policy wonkyness, legislative updates, and calls for your action throughout the legislative session.
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