Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Rep. Vicki Kraft and I are inviting you to join us tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 11, for an important “Transportation Solutions” Town Hall from 10 a.m. to noon at Clark College East Campus, Third Floor, 18700 SE Mill Plain Blvd., in Vancouver.
We must hear from citizens at the beginning of this process!
I believe citizens always come first! This is why I'm joining forces with 17th District State Rep. Vicki Kraft to host a town hall exclusively about transportation issues. Prior to a broader discussion with the state of Oregon and our federal delegation, we must gather input and gain public support for any path forward. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Saturday's town hall underscores my commitment to put our citizens first at the beginning of this process to identify affordable solutions that our citizens will support.
Let's talk about funding!
To be clear, there is no current Washington state funding identified for any of the ideas that will be presented at Saturday's town hall. How did we get into this financial pickle?
- Washington taxpayers have the second highest gas tax in the nation at 49.4 cents a gallon;
- Combined with an 18.4 cents federal gas tax, we pay total 62.9 cents per gallon in taxes; and
- For the next 20 to 30 years we will use our gas tax dollars to pay off the 2003 nickel tax, the 2005 9.5 cent tax, 2015's 11.9 cent tax, and to fund maintenance costs on our state's highways.
It is disappointing the Washington State Legislature continues to bond its way into deeper debt. Today, almost 90 cents of every gas-tax dollar collected goes to pay for bond debt. Instead of buying concrete and rebar, we are paying bankers and bondholders. In the future, we need a “pay as you go/partial bonding” model and a possible option of public-private partnerships (P3s).
Here are some political realities:
Oregon is not as motivated as Southwest Washington to deal with cross-river solutions. They are getting a qualified workforce and a 10 percent state income tax from 80,000 Washington residents, all without a vote or say in Oregon politics or policy.
Nothing will happen until Washington and Oregon come eyeball to eyeball in a formal PROCESS!
This is why I have introduced House Bill 1222, a measure that would create a formal process to address cross-river solutions with two objectives: improve freight mobility and relieve traffic congestion.
Over the past three years, in discussions with Oregon and Washington business leaders, legislators, port officials, mayors and our federal delegation, everyone agrees — we need solutions! Oregon legislators are adamant they will not support a PROJECT. They insist on a PROCESS put in place ahead of any discussions about new connectors between our two states. Any project proposed by a Washington state/Southwest Washington coalition, no matter how unified, won't make it across the river!
A process forward
Here's what House Bill 1222 does:
- Creates a bi-state bridge legislative work group;
- Made up of eight Washington and eight Oregon legislators;
- Equal number of Democrats and Republicans;
- Directs the legislative work group to address I-5 corridor, identify new corridors and develop a 10-year, 25-year and 50-year plan; and
- The group would report its recommendations to transportation committees of the Legislature by Dec. 1, 2018.
If you agree this is the right way forward, I urge your support of House Bill 1222. I'll support this or any other process offered, so long as it meets stated objectives to reduce congestion and improve freight mobility with maximum affordability.
Here's what you can expect at Saturday's Transportation Solutions Town Hall:
Transportation Engineer Kevin Peterson will first present a brief overview with history, present realities, and future needs. Then four ideas will be presented as food for thought. They are simply red lines on a map and nothing is in stone! These ideas were brought to me by people passionate about solving problems.
No Washington State Department of Transportation tax dollars were used to bring you these ideas — just work by private citizens with ideas about bridges and tunnels in a variety of locations along the Columbia River.
The last 45 minutes of the town hall will include public comment. Please note we are videotaping this entire meeting for future distribution. If you don't wish to be on the video, you may provide us with your written comments. Those wishing to testify in person, should sign up with my legislative assistant, Shelby Pelon. Allotted time per speaker will be based on the number of speakers who sign up to testify.
Attendees are encouraged to view the ideas and then provide either written or verbal comments about each idea. Rep. Kraft and I want to hear from our 17th and 18th District constituents. That's the whole point of Saturday's town hall.
Elected officials who represent YOU at the table with Oregon, must defend transportation principles that you will support. This is why your comments are so important!
Finally, I want to emphasize the importance of the passage of House Bill 1222. Remember, without a PROCESS, NO solutions will come forward. That's why we need your support to move the bill from the House Transportation Committee and onto the House floor for a vote!
Read more about our town hall from this press release: Reps. Liz Pike and Vicki Kraft host 'Transportation Solutions' Town Hall Meeting, Feb. 11.
As always, I welcome your comments and input. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to serve you!
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"