Session is now in full swing. Bills will be read and reviewed in the house of origin committee until February 22 — the cutoff date for a bill to pass out of its house of origin. For now, we are continuing conversation with legislators and testifying at public hearings.
What happened last week
Senate transportation funding proposal. During the Senate Transportation Committee last Thursday, TCC testified on Senator Hobbs’ transportation funding proposal. More than 70 stakeholders signed in to testify at this initial hearing. Discussions around a new package will likely outlast this session.
In Chair Hobbs’ initial proposal we appreciated the support for transportation demand management programming and want to see further support for foundational commute trip reduction (CTR) programs, expanded programming, and broadening CTR to include non-commute trips. We believe CTR programs can be expanded to include small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and employees with non-traditional hours. We also appreciated the proposal’s continued base support for multimodal transportation, though investments need to grow beyond previous years in order to achieve our goals around health, opportunity, and equity. This transportation package should center transportation equity and low-income communities and communities of color, as well as addressing emissions in the transportation sector.
One of the more controversial pieces of his proposal was the extension of the Poison Pill, or the ban on rule making for a low-carbon fuel standard. Recognizing the urgency of climate change, TCC testified that we do need to consider all policy options related to reducing harmful emissions in the transportation sector.
What’s happening this week
House transportation funding proposal. We anticipate Representative Fey to release a transportation funding proposal to the House Transportation Committee. We are ready to analyze and provide feedback to ensure policy goals focus on health, opportunity, and equity.
No tolls bill. SB 5104 prohibits local governments from imposing vehicle tolls. We oppose this bill and believe that local jurisdictions should have the ability and flexibility to decide how they want to fund transportation and have tools to address their specific needs. Vehicle tolling is just one option for managing roadways and paying for projects that increase mobility and accessibility. We will testify against this bill on Wednesday in front of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Road usage charge bill. SB 5255 prohibits road usage charges in rural counties. A road usage charge is a mileage-based fee for the use of our state’s roadways. Recognizing that gas tax revenues are projected to decline, Washington is testing the feasibility of road usage charges as a new model for funding transportation, and it’s important that we continue to keep this option open. Contrary to popular belief, a mileage-based charging mechanism should not disproportionately impact those driving long distances in rural areas compared to the gas tax — you pay more the more you drive either way, but a gas tax favors those who can afford more expensive fuel-efficient vehicles. We will testify against this bill on Wednesday in front of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Bikes definition bill. HB 1277 modifies the meaning of bicycles to delete the limitation of electric-assisted bikes. This will cause confusion and safety risks. We support our partners at Washington Bikes in opposing this bill and allowing electric bikes for mobility purposes. We want to create safe and accessible streets for all transportation options. This bill is scheduled for public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Monday.