Dear Friends and Neighbors,
It's been a busy summer, both in my job as a law enforcement officer and in my role as your state representative. I'm very honored to serve you in both of those positions – and I want to remind you that I work as your state representative throughout the year – not only when the Legislature is in session.
It is also my honor to serve as a member of the House Transportation Committee. Transportation is a very important issue to the citizens of the 10th District and there have been a number of recent developments regarding this subject. I would like to take a few minutes to provide this brief update. Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about transportation or any other legislative matter. I can be reached through my legislative office in Olympia at (360) 786-7914. My legislative assistant, Tawnya Smith, will be glad to take your call. Also, I can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com.
Because your input is vital, I'm working with my seatmates, Rep. Norma Smith and Sen. Barbara Bailey, to coordinate a series of town hall meetings in various locations throughout the 10th District in November. We're still working out the times and locations. Once those are determined, I will forward that information to you.
Also, I encourage your attendance and input at the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus' Transportation Listening Tours, which begin next week in Bellevue and Everett. Please read on for further details.
Thank you again for the privilege to be your voice at the state Capitol!
Pressure increases for new transportation revenue package – but we should 'fix it before we fund it!'
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee said he's prepared to call the Legislature into a special session in November to approve a state gas tax increase of as much as 10 cents a gallon or higher to pay for transportation projects across the state.
While I agree the state has transportation and infrastructure needs that eventually must be addressed, the governor's intent to call a special session to pass a new transportation revenue package is premature and would be a waste of precious tax dollars.
- Most Washington citizens are against it. A Stuart Elway poll of 412 registered voters in March found that 72 percent oppose a higher gas tax. During a telephone town hall meeting I conducted on Feb. 28 with Rep. Norma Smith, we asked this survey question: “House Democrats have proposed a 10 cent increase for each gallon of gas you purchase. Would you be willing to pay 10 cents more a gallon to help pay for transportation projects in the state?” Of those who responded, 81 percent said “NO!” And we have found similar opposition in poll after poll throughout the state. People cannot afford higher gas taxes!
- A series of problems within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. These problems include a ramp that was constructed in the wrong place in Tacoma and had to be torn out and rebuilt at the cost to taxpayers of $900,000, and mismanagement of the new SR 520 floating bridge replacement – in which privately-contracted construction workers were drinking on the job, pontoons were poorly constructed with cracks and leaks, six 58-foot tall pillars will have to be replaced because the rebar shifted when the concrete was poured, and cost overruns are now exceeding $400 million from the project.
- Before we ask citizens for more money, we need to implement essential reforms that ensure your tax dollars are wisely spent. Let's fix it before we fund it!
- A similar proposal, House Bill 1954, which would have raised the state's gas tax by 10.5 cents a gallon, was approved by House Democrats in June, but failed to advance in the Senate. I voted against the measure because most reforms have not been put in place to ensure accountability with your tax dollars.
- A cost-driver study is forthcoming in January 2014 to determine what the major cost factors are in Washington's transportation construction system. Once we have a handle on those cost drivers, we can implement legislation to keep costs down.
- A transportation budget is already in place. Just to be clear, the Legislature passed a 2013-15 transportation budget in April of $8.8 billion. Of that amount, $5.2 billion was appropriated for transportation projects. The new revenue package the governor is seeking would be in addition to the transportation budget already approved.
- No agreement has been reached between Republicans and Democrats in Olympia over a transportation revenue package. Without an agreement in place, a special session would be a waste of time.
The Legislature is scheduled to meet in regular session for 60 days beginning Jan. 13. The two special sessions earlier this year cost taxpayers more than $400,000. Instead of adding to those costs with another special session, let's wait the short two months until the Legislature convenes in January and when the cost-driver study is completed to address this issue. In the meantime, we need to hear from citizens!
Make plans to attend a Transportation Listening Tour!
Senate Transportation Committee Co-chairs Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, have announced a statewide “listening tour” in 10 Washington cities, beginning next week in Bellevue and Everett. I strongly encourage you to attend and participate.
HERE ARE THE DATES/TIMES/PLACES:
6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on:
- Sept. 17 – Bellevue
Stevenson Elementary School, 14220 NE 8th St.
- Sept. 18 – Everett
Snohomish County, Robert Drewel Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., 1st floor
- Sept. 23 – Wenatchee
Chelan County PUD Auditorium, 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
- Sept. 24 – Yakima
Yakima Area Arboretum, Garden View Rm., 1401 Arboretum Dr.
- Sept. 26 – Tri-Cities
Columbia Basin College, 2600 N. 20th Ave., Pasco
- Oct. 2 – Spokane
Greater Spokane Inc., 801 W. Riverside
- Oct. 7 – Vancouver
Vancouver Community Library, Columbia Room, 901 C St.
- Oct. 9 – Tacoma
Evergreen Tacoma Campus, Lyceum Hall, 1210 6th Ave.
- Oct. 14 – Seattle
King County Courthouse, Room 1001, 516 3rd Ave., 10th floor
- Oct. 15 – Bellingham
Port of Bellingham Cruise Terminal, 355 Harris Ave.
Work nearing completion on Skagit River I-5 Bridge
While many of my colleagues and I have been critical about WSDOT's performance on a number of other construction projects, I have nothing but praise for the Department's work to keep traffic flowing over the Skagit River following the I-5 bridge collapse in May. I am impressed with the ability of WSDOT to replace the downed bridge with a temporary span just three weeks after the collapse.
Since then, crews have worked around the clock to prepare for a new, permanent bridge span. WSDOT says that work is nearly complete and the permanent span will be slid into place this Saturday night, Sept. 14. WSDOT says the new span should be ready to drive on Sunday morning. You can find information about detours planned for Saturday at WSDOT's web site here. You can also check out a time-lapse video of the construction project on YouTube.