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Dispatch from Olympia: A Look at the Transportation Bills Moving Forward
The 2018 Legislative Session is moving FAST! This week, deadlines are coming and going, and we are feeling positive about the legislation that is moving forward. Tuesday, February 6, was the last day for bills to pass out of fiscal committees and February 14 will be the last day to pass bills in house of origin.
Transportation bills that are moving forward:
Protecting Transit Voter Approved Projects: The second to last bill the Senate Transportation Committee passed before cut off was Senate Bill 5955—similar to House Bill 2201 that passed the house at the end of January. The major difference between the bills is that new language was included in the senate bill that provides Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) relief AND works to ensure that Sound Transit 3 projects are delivered on time. Without any offsets, these bills would result in a $780 million direct hit to Sound Transit 3 projects and ultimately about $2.2 billion in financing costs. The new language would allow Sound Transit to offset the financial impact of the MVET credit by utilizing funds from the "Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account."
The “Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account” was an 11th hour addition to the Connecting Washington Package in 2015 that required Sound Transit to pay sales taxes on construction up to $518 million and for that money to be directed toward educational services to the counties within the Sound Transit district.
Additionally, SB 5955 makes light rail a permitted use in unincorporated areas of counties which may streamline certain permitting and help speed up the delivery of certain Sound Transit 3 projects.
The new language in SB 5955 is a significant improvement to any legislation proposed to address the MVET depreciation schedule and roll back voter approved Sound Transit 3 revenue. This bill demonstrates a willingness from legislators that they are committed to working to deliver Sound Transit 3 projects. There is more work that will need to be done to build support for this bill and to help ensure that voter approved projects are delivered.
Fair representation on transit agency boards: House Bill 1860 and Senate Bill 6414 would require members of the governing board of Pierce Transit, Spokane Transit, and Clark County’s C-Tran to be selected to ensure proportional representation of the cities and unincorporated sections of counties that are located within the transit area boundary. We are excited about these bills! Both bills would ensure that all voters have fair representation on transit boards. As of now, the governing bodies contain greater representation of board members who are elected officials from rural areas, leaving the denser areas underrepresented. HB 1860 and SB 6414 are scheduled for the House Floor Calendar and the Senate Rules Committee. Stay tuned for an upcoming post digging into the details of these bills.
Create a clean fuels standard (and maintain multimodal funding): House Bill 2338 establishes a Clean Fuels Program that would require refineries to reduce harmful fuel elements by blending biofuels, purchasing credits from utilities, and more. The bill also removes language in the 2015 Connecting Washington package that would have moved multimodal funding to the Connecting Washington account (for highway and maintenance) if a clean fuels program was established. The bill moved to the House Rules Committee. For more information check out our partners at Climate Solutions who crafted this bill.
Intercity Transit in Olympia: House Bill 1410 and Senate Bill 5288 would allow Intercity Transit in Olympia to go to the ballot to increase their taxing authority. We support this bill. HB 1410 is in House Rules Committee and SB 5288 is scheduled for Senate Floor Calendar.
Traffic camera enforcement for bus-only lanes and zones: House Bill 2403 would allow the use of automated traffic safety and transit-only lane enforcement cameras. We support this bill. It is now in the House Rules Committee.