Opinion

Businesses back transportation bill, but will GOP? | Roegner

Are you happy with our transportation system? Many businesses aren’t and believe it may be costing us jobs.

Are you willing to raise your taxes to improve the system?

Transportation, along with K-12 and higher education, rank as the most important financial and political issues confronting our state and South King County.

Last week, State Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) introduced a far-reaching and expensive transportation bill.

The bill would raise $9.8 billion over the next decade. There is a smorgasbord of fees and taxes included, along with a 10-cent gas tax that would come into play to spread the fiscal challenge around among taxpayers. The 10-year time frame will also ease in the burden.

The plan introduced by Clibborn is one of many that has been discussed over the past year, and places the issue front and center for debate. As chair of the House Transportation committee, Clibborn is one of the most powerful people in Olympia.

By bringing the package out now, she forces the debate before all the political chips get used up by the coming debate on education. There is little likelihood that two-thirds of both houses would vote to increase taxes, but there may be enough support to send the issue to the voters, although that is not a sure thing.

Most of the current transportation funding goes to pay off bonds on projects already built or in progress, so there isn’t any funding for maintenance and new projects.

As expected, Republican legislators are skeptical about the bill, but they are also in a bind because much of the support is actually coming from their constituents — business.

Many of the most important businesses in our state belong to the Washington Roundtable, which has been pushing a transportation package for several months.

When Boeing, Microsoft and others start talking, legislators start listening.

And if Clibborn can push the bill through the House, it will put pressure on the Republican leadership in the Senate.

Remember the issue of whether Senate Democrats would take the Republicans’ offer to chair some of the committees in the Republican-controlled Senate? It was a difficult choice for 30th District Sen. Tracey Eide (D-Federal Way), who did agree to co-chair the Senate transportation committee with Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima).

This is one of the reasons that Eide disagreed with her party leadership and took the offer. While some of the projects are in Spokane, Vancouver and other parts of the state, some of the key improvements are right here and would benefit this region — projects including I-5, State Route 167 and State Route 509, to name just a few.

These enhancements would help the ports in Seattle and Tacoma who work with local businesses to move products and provide local jobs.

And most of the cities and Chambers of Commerce in South King County include transportation needs in their legislative agendas. Almost everyone from both political parties agrees with the need, but many Republicans don’t want their fingerprints on anything that looks like a tax increase, even if it’s only to send the issue to the voters. But if they do, will you vote for it?

Big needs equals big politics.

 

 

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