The end of the 2022 legislative session is fast approaching, but we still have two weeks to take care of the most important business: the budgets. The House and Senate introduced their supplemental operating, transportation, and capital budget proposals this week. We are scheduled to vote on these this Saturday.
But before I get into some of the details about the budgets and the Democrats' Move Ahead Washington transportation package, I want to thank you for your continued input and feedback. I represent you and I need to hear your ideas and concerns. Please continue reaching out to me. It's an honor to serve and I look forward to hearing from you.
Update on My Legislation
Here's an update on the bills I introduced this session. First the good news.
House Bill 1655, which would provide a huge lift to our truck drivers and keep our roads safe, unanimously passed out of the House two weeks ago. On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Transportation also unanimously passed the bill. It now awaits a vote by the full Senate.
Unfortunately, my other bills that passed out of the committee never made it to the House floor. Majority party leaders chose to stall several pieces of good Republican legislation, including House Bills 1657, 1656, and 2077.
HB 1657 was another bill to help truck drivers. It had bipartisan support and nationwide attention, and it unanimously passed out of the House Finance Committee. However, that's as far as it got.
The full House never voted on HB 2077, which would've helped victims of human trafficking, by requiring human trafficking informational posters to be placed, at a minimum, in bathroom stalls of safety rest areas. It also unanimously passed out of committee. However, some of the policy from this bill is included in the proposed transportation package, which I explain later in this update.
Last, but not least, HB 1656, which would have added concealment to the definition of theft did not pass out of committee. The bill received high praise from the committee chair just moments before we we're to cast our votes. However, he received a phone call from Democratic leadership in that very moment, ordering him to kill the bill.
It's unfortunate that partisan politics prevented these sensible pieces of legislation from moving forward.
Transportation Budget and Move Ahead Washington Spending Package
As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I was hoping to have a place at the table in this year's supplemental transportation budget discussions, as usual. However, House and Senate Democrats originally left Republicans out of the conversation, but then at the last minute, decided to work with us. They accepted several of our amendments, which makes this supplemental transportation budget proposal more bipartisan, and provides much needed funding for important transportation services throughout the state. Transportation is a priority for everyone in Washington and we need to get this right because it affects us all.
The 2021-23 supplemental transportation budget is$11.7 billion, which is a reduction of $137 million from the budget passed last year. The reliance on bonding is reduced from $2.5 billion to $1.4 billion. The revenue forecast projects $6.59 million in state revenues for 2021-23.
The good news is the budget proposal does include several Republican ideas now, including $5 million going toward keeping safety rest areas open, as directed in my legislation in HB 1655. Another $50,000 would go toward posting human trafficking assistance phone number signs at those areas, which is similar to another one of my bills, HB 2077. I'm very pleased to see this added into the budget.
However, the budget is not perfect. It spends $127 million in Climate Commitment Act (CCA) funding that may not appear by the end of the biennium. This funding is going to special interests instead of much-needed repairs on the state system. It also increases $68.8 million for public transportation funding, with a good portion of the funding coming from the CCA, identified in the Move Ahead Washington plan.
Additionally, it provides $4 million and authorization to seek federal funding for the governor's ultra-high-speed rail concept from Portland, Oregon, to Vancouver, B.C. An additional $50 million is available for federal grant matching requirements for the state portion. Lastly, this bill authorizes the Department of Commerce to set vehicle miles traveled reduction targets for all jurisdictions, which originally did not apply in rural counties.
In contrast, we have introduced numerous ideas and real solutions to the state's many ongoing transportation issues. We introduced our Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act in November, which I had a hand in, as part of the transportation committee.
The REAL Act consists of several bills that would, among other things, shift specified transportation programs to be paid for by the general fund starting in 2025. It would direct state sales tax paid on motor vehicles to the preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system. And it calls for permanently transferring sales tax paid on transportation projects to the transportation budget. Here's a comparison of the two plans.
Unfortunately, the majority party moved ahead without our input and plans to quickly push through their Move Ahead Washington spending and tax package, much of which is incorporated into the supplemental transportation budget. This is a 16-year proposal that is expected to cost $16.8 billion, and it will raise taxes and fees on all of us. Under the majority party's proposal:
- The state would create $2 billion in new revenue by adding a new, 6-cent tax on fuel exported from Washington state. Oregon, Alaska, and Idaho have all threatened to retaliate if Washington decides to move forward with this bad policy.
- One of the funding sources is the CCA, which draws some of its revenue from the cap-and-trade act, which will increase the price of gas.
- The cost of several transportation fees would increase, including license plates and driver's licenses.
- It would require vehicle owners and drivers to pay more for other forms of transportation.
I'm very concerned about this possible export tax on fuel to our bordering states. This could create a trade war with our neighbors, not to mention probable lengthy litigation which would put the revenue from this tax in jeopardy. That would hurt everyone involved.
The Democrats' Move Ahead Washington spending and tax package would create additional burdens for all Washingtonians. We do not need to increase fees or raise any taxes. We have enough money coming into our state coffers to fund all of our proposals and create real solutions for Washington families. It's time to give the people of our state some meaningful relief.
Thank You and Please Continue Reaching Out
As always, this is just a snapshot of what's going on in Olympia. If you'd like a more in-depth update, please continue to reach out to me with all your questions, feedback, and input. I value your opinion and I'm here to represent you in the 35th District. You can connect with me via email, phone, in-person, or Zoom, if you wish. Thank you for allowing me to serve you, and for your continued support.
It's an honor to represent you in the Legislature.