WA lawmakers propose short-term fix to cover possible losses from I-976

Feb 26, 2020, 10:49 AM
car tabs, Orting, i-976...
(MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Lawmakers in the Washington State Senate unveiled a proposal Tuesday they hope will provide a short-term fix to funding gaps that would be created by the implementation of I-976.

The next steps for Sound Transit in the wake of I-976

As it stands now, Tim Eyman’s $30 car tabs measure remains tied up in a lawsuit while awaiting further discovery in court. Even so, lawmakers are staring down $453 million in funding gaps between 2019 and 2021 if it goes into effect. By the next biennium, that could balloon to over $684 million in lost funding.

Legislators also worry about additional issues created by a dwindling transportation budget prior to the approval of I-976.

“Transportation revenue was drying up prior to the passage of I-976. The initiative took things from bad to devastating,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs.

The proposed supplemental budget includes measures to bridge that potential funding gap, with what the Senate labels “one-time balancing methods that provide a short-term fix.”

Even so, lawmakers note it’s far from a long-term solution given other shortfalls in the state budget.

“The well has run dry in terms of transportation funding,” Hobbs said.

Sen. Hobbs points to lower revenues from the state’s gas tax, which has long acted as the primary source of funding for Washington’s transportation projects. Despite that, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle hope the Senate’s supplemental budget proposal will at least provide some temporary relief.

“This is not the type of budget we would have liked to have been able to move forward but it is a budget that puts us on a prudent path that is needed at this time,” said Republican Sen. Curtis King.

Eyman: Executive Constantine in ‘5 stages of grief’ over car tabs

If the budget is passed, lawmakers predict it will provide Gov. Jay Inslee with the means to lift a hold on new WSDOT projects he initially enacted in fear of budget shortfalls from I-976.

Other funding in the proposed supplemental budget will include $175 million toward the removal of fish passage barriers, $10.9 million for Seattle ferry terminal replacements, and more.

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WA lawmakers propose short-term fix to cover possible losses from I-976