Dear Friends and Neighbors,
In response to questions about the recently passed legislation regarding adding capacity to the I-5 corridor near and over the Columbia River, I want to be perfectly clear that my intentions are to create a process that would lead us not only to a solution, but a process that has accountability, creates an affordable solution and is done so in a timely manner.
This effort is about congestion relief and improving freight mobility for my constituents and businesses who are on the west side of the county that are forced to travel this corridor to make a living. This process includes:
- A bipartisan, bicameral, bi-state committee made up of elected state legislators who's districts are adjacent to the project area and are members of state transportation committees, since legislators would ultimately be responsible for approving the plan and its financing.
- Identifying and adopting a budget for the project based on federal grant funding commitments and phased state funding from Oregon and Washington.
- A rigorous public process to prioritize and rank a project list that improves freight mobility and relieves traffic congestion in the I-5 corridor that has broad community support on both sides of the river. The projects must be affordable and fit within the confines of our budget.
- Moving forward without delay on the top project.
For those who are unaware of the developments this past week, the House approved an amendment I wrote along with Rep. Sharon Wylie, who sponsored the measure. It provides $100,000 for seed money to create a bi-state bridge coalition. Read my news release for more information about this proposal. I welcome your questions and comments about this process.
I invite you to read on for information on the transportation revenue proposal that passed from the House Transportation Committee Tuesday night and why I voted no.
Please contact my office with your questions, comments and suggestions about any issues in this e-newsletter or other matters relating to legislation and state government. It is an honor to serve and represent you!
House Democrats strip reforms from transportation revenue package – Pike votes NO!
Late Tuesday night, a majority of members in the House Transportation Committee passed a House amendment to the Senate's 11.7 cent state gas tax package to fund new transportation projects around our state. I voted “no” on Senate Bill 5987, along with most other Republicans on the committee.
In a strange twist, this measure will not go to the House floor for an immediate vote. Instead, we were told by House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn this proposal will now head straight into negotiations with Senate transportation leaders which began at 9 a.m. yesterday. Negotiations between Senate Republicans and House Democrats must take place to advance the gas tax since there are substantial differences in the adopted versions.
The Senate Republicans crafted an “iron-clad” consumer protection act embedded into their original language which would protect Washington residents from Inslee's proposed carbon tax schemes. Or so, they thought. The House Democrat striking amendment quickly stripped out this provision, which some are referring to as a “poison pill.” My position is clear regarding low carbon fuel standards. You can read my guest editorial on this subject published in last Sunday's Columbian here.
The House version also removes all of the Senate's important sales tax reforms. I was opposed to the Senate's plan because I thought the reforms did not go far enough and because a majority of my constituents are not in favor of a gas tax at this time. This latest House version is a giant step backward in terms of reform and would do nothing to protect our citizens and businesses from Jay Inslee's meaningless carbon reduction programs. Most disturbing is this proposal would raise gas taxes at a time when most businesses and working families are still recovering from the worst recession in our lifetime.
We are scheduled to adjourn this session in just 10 days from today. Citizens deserve a Legislative branch that finishes its work on time. I appreciate Chair Clibborn fast-tracking the Senate's gas tax hearing and advancing straight to a negotiating table. But I don't think an impasse on the biggest gas tax in Washington's history is a reason to go into an overtime session. Last week, the House passed a $7.7 billion transportation operating budget which keeps our highway department functioning and keeps our Washington State Patrol on duty. So we have a maintenance level transportation budget proposal that could take care of immediate operating needs.
Before we adjourn on April 26, we must pass a two-year state operating budget. There is an approved House version at $39 billion that includes $1.5 billion in new taxes and a “no new taxes” Senate version at $38 billion. These budget proposals are currently being negotiated behind closed doors. We have 10 days. Let's get this done for the citizens of our state!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"