With less than two weeks left of the short 2020 session, we’re focused on passing the Block the Box bill, monitoring the transportation budget, and continuing to protect Sound Transit projects.

What happened last week:

Block the Box — After passing through the Senate, SB 5789, the Block the Box bill, was heard by the House Transportation Committee. We again testified with a variety of stakeholders, from Rooted in Rights and the Transit Riders Union, to the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Seattle Chamber and Police and Fire departments. Our Olympia team was also joined by our TCC Peer Educators who are learning about political process and how transit advocacy looks on the ground. After a relatively smooth hearing (this committee has heard versions of this bill multiple times), the bill has been scheduled for Executive session on Monday, March 2, at 1:30. A vote would move it to the House floor calendar.

Sound Transit Funding — Unfortunately SB 6606, which would cut funding for Sound Transit projects, passed out of committee and is currently on the Senate floor calendar. We released an action alert to keep the pressure on Senators that any changes to the MVET schedule must keep projects on track. This bill could be called for a vote at any time — transit supporters can help by sending a letter to your Senator or amplifying this action! 

Budgets released — Finally, after much anticipation, the Senate and House transportation budgets were released last week. Both budgets reflect potential cuts due to I-976. 

To balance these impacts, the House budget moves $104 million of Ferries and State Patrol items previously funded through the Multimodal Account over to the Motor Vehicle Account (which TCC believes in a very positive and appropriate action). However, it also keeps all road projects previously paused by the Governor’s office on track while delaying $36M in transit projects like the RapidRide H line and vanpool grants across the state. 

The Senate Budget keeps all transit projects funded by backfilling lost funds with a $25 million transfer from the operating budget. The Senate budget also transfers $60 million worth of projects from the Multimodal Account to the Motor Vehicle account, though not as many as the House.

Both the Senate and the House budgets fully fund special needs transportation and rural mobility grants. This provides a good base moving forward in our advocacy, but we need to make sure we protect all transit funding.

A high-level comparison of the two budgets is as follows:

“Public Transportation Budget” – House vs. Senate Side-by-Side 

Policy Changes House Senate Notes
Green Capital Grant Reduction -530 -12,000 Transit Grant implementation of HB 2042
Project Delay -1,000   Connecting WA Transit Grant Delayed until the 21-23 biennium
Orca pass 6,370   Provides new ORCA card benefits for state employees
Uncommitted Grant Funding -441 -441 Uncommitted Regional Mobility removed
Regional Mobility Project Delay -24,059   Regional mobility grant delay to the 21-23 biennium
Transit Coordination Grant Delay -1,000   Amount not yet under contract are moved to the 21-23 biennium
Vanpool Grant Delay -9,256   New vanpool grants program projects moved to the 21-23 biennium
Contingent Appropriation Authority   25,000 Restores some of the reduced funding for the Public Transportation Program if 976 is found unconstitutional
Project Capital Spending Underruns   -26,816 Reduced to reflect historical agency underspending

 Budget Provisos — We are pleased to see the inclusion of several provisos that represent TCC priorities. 

The Senate budget includes a proviso that would implement a piece of the Transportation for All bill. The proviso is relatively limited in scope but would require a pilot performance-based evaluation of transportation projects, so the legislature could better understand how an evaluation process would benefit transparent and accountable decision-making. 

In addition, the House bill included a $150,000 proviso to fund an equity impacts analysis of Road Usage Charge policies. 

What’s happening this week: 

Members are currently working to reconcile the two budgets. We will be advocating to include both provisos in the balanced budget package, as well as to maintain Regional Mobility Grant funding to keep transit projects funded and on schedule. 

Block the Box is scheduled for Executive session, and we will be pushing for it to get scheduled on the House floor calendar — the final step needed to get this legislation across the finish line! 

Finally we will be monitoring the Senate floor for any movement on SB 6606 to ensure we defend against cuts to Sound Transit.

Action Alert: Keep the Pressure on in Olympia to Protect Light Rail Projects!

SB 6606 would strip Sound Transit of revenue and put essential transit projects at risk for cuts or delay.

Please stand up with us to keep light rail and rapid bus projects fully funded and on track!

Let your Senator know that you support transit and want to see Sound Transit projects delivered on time.

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