This is the final sprint. The House bill dropped last week, and the Senate’s will be released today. With just three weeks left of the regular 2021 legislative session, every day, every hearing, and every conversation to advance a new transportation package counts.
Miles Ahead Washington
Last week, the House unveiled its official investment proposal, Miles Ahead Washington. The package is trimmed slightly from the January proposal — $22 billion over 16 years, from $26 billion. Overall, the proposal includes significantly more robust investments in transit, multimodal and climate-friendly elements than past transportation packages. Here are some of the inclusions we are supporting:
- ~$3 billion in transit investments. This nearly would be nearly five times the investment in transit over past packages. It includes a large increases in the Regional Mobility, Rural Transit and Special Needs Transit grant programs (which can free up other dollars for agencies to put into fixed route service), $160 million for a new Transit Fare Access Grant program for agencies to start low-income fare programs, a new Tribal Transit grant program, plus Bus & Bus Facility Grants, also new. The Washington State Transit Association put out this graphic to demonstrate the additional funds for transit programs, per biennium.
- ~$1 billion in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure
- $800 million to electrify, including ferries, Green Transit Grants to electrify bus fleets across the state, and other projects
- A new Connecting Community Grant, which puts a strong focus on environmental justice communities, and a focus on equity
Of course, we know there are tens of billions of unmet mobility and mitigation needs for communities that have borne the brunt of harmful transportation impacts. The proposal still includes $6 billion in new roadway projects. To fight these, we’re asking all our allies to speak up and let our legislators know that we must go all the way to truly shift the paradigm for a clean and just transportation system.
The Senate will release its revised Forward Washington package today, and hold a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday). With both proposals officially out, we will be pushing for the largest investments in transit and safe infrastructure and to move negotiations forward as quickly as possible.
Related issues at play
At this point in session, there are several other pieces of legislation that are tied both policy-wise and politically to a transportation package. Whether or not a package moves forward will almost certainly depend on both 2SSB 5126, the Climate Commitment Act and E3SHB 1091, which sets a low carbon fuel standard, also known as “clean fuels.”
On the revenue side of the transportation package equation is whether or not 2SSB 5126, the Climate Commitment Act, will move forward. This bill would establish a cap and invest program for greenhouse gas emissions, with a significant portion of the revenue funding transportation. The bill is currently waiting for debate on the Senate floor.
The clean fuels legislation would limit the aggregate, overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of transportation fuel energy to 20% below 2017 levels by 2035. It had a March 27 public hearing and executive action on April 1 in Senate Ways & Means. After the bill passed out of her committee, the Senate Ways & Means Chair Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) announced the bill will head straight to Rules and will not go to the Transportation Committee this year. In the past two sessions, similar bills stalled in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Both of these bills could potentially impact the price of gasoline, which is one factor legislators are considering as they weigh how to round out the revenue side of the transportation package.
Cutoffs have come and gone
For all bills that aren’t related to a budget, the cutoffs have come and gone. We are grateful the HB 1301, the equitable fare enforcement bill, passed unanimously out of the Senate Transportation Committee and onto the Rules committee. We are hopeful it will reach the Senate floor and if momentum continues, the Governor’s desk!
Unfortunately, the legislation to end debt-based drivers license suspensions, ESSB 5226, has picked up amendments that water down the original intention of the bill. The coalition working on that legislation has now shifted to an opposition effort, and are requesting supporters and allies take action against criminalizing poverty.
For all other bills we’ve been tracking this session, please see our Bill Tracker.