As we transition from March to April, and the regular session scheduled to conclude on April 25, the pressure is on for our legislators to move a new transportation package forward! Fiscal committee cutoff is this week, which means any bills with a fiscal component (aside from bills considered “necessary to implement the budget” or “NTIB”) must pass from a fiscal committee to keep moving forward.
As expected, the House and Senate released their respective biennial transportation budget proposals last week. Due to significant backfill from the federal stimulus package we thankfully didn’t see major cuts to issues we care about. Overall, the biennial budget reappropriates funds based on past transportation packages, which is why we continue to see the majority of funding dedicated to roadway projects. As we told Publicola, it’s clear we need major change in the next transportation package to reorient to a Clean and Just future.
Here is a summary of our budget priorities
- We support the House’s proposal to increase the following:
- Special Needs transit
- Safe Routes to School and Bicycle/Pedestrian Grants
- Green Transportation Grants
- Commute Trip Reduction
- We support several provisos to further equity work at the State:
- Funding to study automated enforcement
- Funding for a RUC equity analysis
- A proviso that would allow for payment plans for vehicle fees
- Funding for a Joint Transportation Committee study on transportation equity
- We oppose several proposals, including:
- An exorbitant $7.5 million annual increase in MVET processing fees for Sound Transit
- Moving multimodal funding to projects that could be funded by gas tax revenue
This week: Movement on a new package?
After months of waiting, we expect the House to release its revised transportation package investment proposal on Tuesday at 10 a.m., followed by a hearing Thursday morning. We expect the Tuesday announcement to focus on a spending plan, as at this point, the revenue component is tied heavily to the Climate Commitment Act, a separate Cap and Invest carbon pricing bill.
In addition, we’re closely tracking conversations around the Low Carbon Fuel Standard bill, or “clean fuels.” Legislators are keenly aware of how this bill, the Climate Commitment Act, and the transportation packages are coming together, as several of the policy issues are related, and their support for one may depend on the path of one of the other components.
Enforcement, Road Usage Charge, Drivers’ license suspensions, still moving
Despite the attention on the budget and a potential new package, we are continuing to support policy bills moving through the regular process. HB 1301, regarding equitable fare enforcement, is progressing and scheduled for Executive Committee on Tuesday, March 30. SB 5226, regarding suspension of drivers’ licenses for non-payment of fees, has been facing some tough amendments; TCC is supporting partners at the ACLU to strike the amendments and keep the bill moving. Finally, SB 5444, which would begin implementation of a Road Usage Charge (RUC) is in the Senate Rules committee, and may have paths forward through the budget or a package. TCC and partners at the Climate Alliance are working hard to ensure that legislators keep new revenue raised from RUC or other sources as flexible, among other policy priorities we have outlined in our latest one-pager.
Check out our Bill Tracker for status updates on all our priority bills.