Legislative session 2020 kicks off today, January 13, and Transportation Choices Coalition is ready to defend against cuts, strengthen State transportation goals and performance metrics, and push forward on legislation from 2019 including HB 1793, the “block the box” bill.” This year will be a “short” 60-day session, scheduled to end no later than March 12, which means policymaking (and advocacy!) will be fast and furious. Special sessions of up to 30 days may be called if more time is needed.
With only two months in this year of the legislative cycle, TCC is focusing on the following priorities:
In the wake of I-976 passing, an initiative that limits all car tab fees across Washington State to $30, as well as reduces a host of other vehicle licensing and weight fees, Governor Inslee has directed the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to delay transportation projects that 1) are not needed for safety improvements and 2) do not jeopardize federal funding. Under this guidance, he has bought legislative and transportation leaders time to plan for potential cuts while challenges to I-976 play out in court.
TCC is advocating to ensure that projects and programs that are eligible for funds from the State’s Motor Vehicle Account, such as Ferries and the State Patrol, are supported by those dollars. By doing so, we can focus on preserving funds from the Multimodal Account (the hardest hit by I-976) for transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, which already receive a disproportionately small allocation of state dollars compared to other transportation modes.
In addition, TCC is working with partners to explore what other local taxing options should be authorized by the state. Though we ultimately believe in more structural changes to how we fund transit (see below!), we also know local jurisdictions around the state are looking for new options to fund local transportation needs.
Funding and reform
This year TCC is proud to be working as part of the Climate Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy on a bill that would move Washington State closer to performance-based transportation planning. Though WSDOT has some transportation goals already in code, the Climate Alliance is advocating to update these goals to include climate, health and resilience, equity and environmental justice. In addition, we’ll be pushing to add performance metrics and accountability measures to how we select which transportation projects receive funding in the future. We believe performance-based planning is the only way we can ensure our transportation investments are helping us build a healthier, more sustainable and more connected Washington State.
We are thrilled that this bill will be introduced by Representative Sharon Shewmake (D-Whatcom). Representative Shewmake is an environmental economist with expertise in how transportation and housing policy impacts the environment. She is an ideal champion to lead the conversation about how we must wisely invest every dollar to achieve better outcomes for people in our state.
Check out our Transportation for All one pagers here and here.
Automated Traffic Camera Enforcement, and other 2019 bills
TCC is looking forward to getting 2019 work past the finish line this year. HB 1793, the “don’t block the box” and “don’t block the bus” bill, which passed the House but got stalled in the Senate, will be re-introduced by Representative Joe Fitzgibbon. Over the last year we have seen how buses moving out of the Seattle transit tunnel to surface streets has had negative impacts on transit use to downtown, so ensuring we can enforce bus lanes to keep people moving is more critical than ever. We’ll be working again with Rooted in Rights, as well as business partners to pass this bill that keeps buses moving and intersections safe.
Finally, during even-year sessions supplemental budget actions are taken to adjust the current biennium’s budget. Governor Inslee released his supplemental budget in December that builds on the delays already enacted by WSDOT in the wake of Initiative 976 passing. This includes a host of important public transit projects across the state, including projects in Longview, Spokane, West Pasco, Seattle, Burien and Kent. With transit agencies and local governments being impacted by the outcome of I-976, we need to make sure that the State fully funds transit, bike, and pedestrian projects. We urge the State to shift funding for programs that can be funded by the motor vehicle account in order to keep public transportation and bike and pedestrian infrastructure funding intact in the multimodal account. The Governor’s proposed transportation budget will be heard on Monday January 13 in the House and Tuesday January 14 in the Senate.
Please stay engaged
TCC will be working diligently on the ground in Olympia, and dispatching news and updates through our blog each week. We’ll also be tracking priority transportation bills on our bill tracker; calling on transit supporters to engage in actions; and overall keeping you up to date over this short session. Make sure to subscribe to our advocacy alerts, and follow us on social media to keep up with the latest on legislative session 2020!