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Dispatch from Olympia: Day 1

Posted by Carla Chavez at Jan 09, 2017 12:25 PM |
Legislative Session is here. See what's in store for transit.

Today marks the first day of the 2017 legislative session and we’re in Olympia advancing Transportation Choices Coalition’s vision of affordable, vibrant, walkable, bike-friendly communities connected by frequent and reliable transit.

Let's set the stage

In the November elections, we picked up a few transit champions in both houses, but the balance of power remains unchanged in a politically divided state capital. The Senate Republicans, representing suburban and rural communities, maintain a one-vote majority, while the House continues its slim Democratic majority with pro-transit champions hailing from urban areas.

Democratic Governor Jay Inslee released his biennium budget proposal in mid-December with a focus on increasing revenues via new taxes largely aimed at funding K-12 basic education and public health services. We applaud the governor for fully funding multi-modal programs in his biennium transportation budget, and look forward to working with him and legislative leaders in both chambers and across the aisle to maintain those commitments in the final transportation budget.

Because this is an odd-year session, the primary focus will be on adopting the 2017-2019 biennium operating, transportation and capital budgets. Funding K-12 basic education to meet McCleary requirements will take up most of the oxygen in the room. Expect updates from us well into 2017 as many experts are predicting this session, which would normally conclude on April 23, will require at least one 30-day special session in order to agree on a final budget.

What's in store

Fortunately, because we helped secured a $16 billion, long-term transportation package in 2015 that included record setting multi-modal funding commitments, this year’s transportation budget is not expected to be controversial and should be finalized before the operation and capital budgets.

Nonetheless, we will continue to push bold transportation policies, including:

Advancing Innovative Policies

  • Championing an innovative congestion relief program that will reduce travel times, improve air quality, and optimize our transportation system;
  • Securing funding for a pioneering pay-as-you-drive pilot program that ensures our transportation system is well maintained and that Washingtonians can pursue a wide variety of transportation choices.

Investing in Choices

  • Defending the unprecedented multi-modal funding commitments we won in the 2015 transportation package;
  • Working with transit agencies and social justice organizations to ensure Volkswagen Clean Air Mitigation funds are invested in solutions that benefit transit and improve air quality – especially in communities that have historically borne higher levels of air pollution.

These are a few of our 2017 priorities. Please stay tuned as we release our full 2017 legislative agenda next week. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions on policy or how to get involved in advocating for an issue important to you.

I look forward to updating you as the legislative session progresses. Until then, thank you for your continued support and happy New Year!

Ricardo Gotla
Policy Director

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