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Michael Medved

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Dino Rossi doesn’t mind being Sound Transit’s public enemy No. 1

Sen. Dino Rossi says he wants to "demonstrate to the world" that the Democrats votes on a budget aren't there. (AP)

Given his long-time opposition to light rail, Dino Rossi expects Sound Transit has a dartboard with his picture on it. And he’s fine with that. It might even become a permanent fixture following his latest bill proposal that would allow jurisdictions to opt out of paying for the Sound Transit 3 extension.

“I think this is the right thing to, give people who don’t receive anything but a bill an opportunity opt out,” Rossi told KTTH’s Todd Herman.

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Dino Rossi has been anything but passive since his unexpected return to the State Senate in December, appointed to fill the 45th District Senate seat — which covers Kirkland, Sammamish, Woodinville and Duvall — after the death of Sen. Andy Hill in October. Rossi twice lost in the governor’s race to Chris Gregoire (by 133 votes in 2004 and by more than 194,000 votes the following cycle) and to Patty Murray in 2010 for the U.S. Senate post. He served as a state senator from 1997 to 2003 and as a five-month fill-in in 2012 after the resignation of Sen. Cheryl Pflug.

The Seattle Times reported that Rossi was the top pick among the 46 members of the Republican Central Committee, ahead of Kirkland City Council member Toby Nixon and Redmond aerospace executive Joel Hussey. Rossi told the King County Council at the time of his appointment that he will fill Hill’s seat through 2017 but won’t campaign for re-election.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to make some noise in the meantime.

Dino Rossi still fighting Sound Transit

Rossi said he’s been railing against Sound Transit since running an opposition campaign in 1995 in East King County, and his passion hasn’t waned. He said he recently put forward a bill that would allow residents living in cities like Sammamish to not pay taxes on the ST3, a $54 billion ballot measure that will expand light rail throughout King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties over the next several decades. Though the measure passed in November, it was rejected by Pierce County voters.

Rossi said some voters will see a bump on their tax bill but “get nothing.” There is no hearing date as of yet for his proposal.

“Why don’t we let the local jurisdictions and city councils decide if they want to opt out,” he said. “I’m trying to do it before they bond the property tax money because having revenue stream laying around down here is like a drug to politicians. What they try to do is try to borrow against it, they obligate the revenue stream, which means it would be very difficult to ever do anything with it after that.”

I-405 tolling bill

Rossi was also a sponsor on Senate Bill 5707 that would remove tolling on I-405. He testified about the bill during a Senate Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday. He told Herman that the goal is to remove the tolling on I-405, return the number of people allowed in the HOV lane from three back to two and remove one of the HOV lanes. He said the bottom line is that tolling takes the most precious commodity of all: time.

“What the state is doing is purposefully making the traffic so bad and congestion so bad, that they’re stealing our time and selling it to somebody else,” he told Herman. “That’s unconscionable. It’s a road we already paid for. That’s why I sponsored the bill, I have bipartisan sponsorship.”

More transparency

Rossi also sponsored Senate Bill 5533 that would prohibit contributions to gubernatorial candidates by entities that collectively bargain with the state. The bill was introduced to the Commerce and Labor Committee on Feb. 6.

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Rossi explained that the bill looks at the “perception of corruption” in government. He pointed to the fact that, since 1947, insurance companies can’t contribute to the insurance commissioner’s races because of the appearance of corruption, and yet “the governor can go in secret in the backroom with the taxpayers wallet and negotiate with state employees, their salaries and benefits at the very same time, they’re putting millions of dollars into the governor’s campaign.”

“So I thought, well if it’s good enough for the insurance commissioner, why shouldn’t it be good enough for the governor?” Rossi said. “I’m not saying the governor is corrupt, but there’s an appearance of corruption and the collective bargaining agreement is very clear, so what I’ve done is put together a bill that bars anybody who he collectively bargains with from contributing directly to his race. If they contribute to the state party, Republican or Democrat, it has to be segregated; can’t be used for the governor’s race, and also from independent expenditures. Because people can’t have faith in their state government if they think it’s potentially corrupt.”

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