Free youth transit access, expanded traffic cameras within transportation budget passed in Senate

Feb 16, 2022, 5:43 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2022, 8:42 am
The Fremont Bridge, Seattle (Flickr)

The Washington state Senate has cleared a significant threshold in its attempt to pass its progressive $16 billion transportation package, titled “Move Ahead Washington.” Its funding bill passed through the Senate on Tuesday evening, largely unaffected by conservative pushback that came in a series of attempted amendments.

The spending bill has a number of impacts on Washingtonians were it enacted:

  • Creating a tax on exported gasoline to neighboring states (Washington state has traditionally exempted certain fuel exports from state duties)
  • Increasing fees for enhanced drivers’ licenses and plates
  • Placing restrictions on certain highway projects to better accord with safety design for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Allocating funds generated by carbon taxes under the Climate Commitment Act
  • Authorizing local governments to use sales taxes for the benefit of transportation projects
  • Modulating tolls on I-405 to increase speeds in HOV lanes
  • Expanding the scope and range of automated traffic cameras
  • Largely waiving fees for children 18 and younger to access public transit and Amtrak trains

Transportation packages are traditionally funded in part through gasoline taxes, a process that involves the creation of state debt, and therefore requires supermajority approval in Congress. This bill avoids that prior hurdle, creating funding through alternative means.

Multi-billion dollar transportation package would strike down repeal of fuel export tax

On Tuesday evening, the Senate passed six of 17 proposed amendments, largely along party lines. Notable amendments include 1160, sponsored by Sen. Liz Lovelett (D-40th District), which apportions $500 million for the enhancement of “stormwater runoff treatment from existing road and infrastructure with an emphasis on green infrastructure retrofits,” as the amendment reads.

Presumably, the amendment was drafted, in part, in response to growing concern among fish biologists that so-called “forever chemicals” created by particulates from vehicle tires leach into the water supply via storm drain runoff, decimating specific populations of salmon.

That particular issue was a highlight of the Lorraine Loomis Act, written at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee. Sources tell KIRO Newsradio that the bill is not likely to pass this session: It has not received a committee hearing since late January, and although not technically subject to Tuesday’s cutoff, is not likely to be heard in committee.

Republican amendments that failed largely included apportionment of funds toward specific development projects and rollbacks of certain taxes. Notably, Move Ahead Washington was drafted behind closed doors, with Republicans vocally criticizing the lack of transparency as the transportation bills under Move Ahead Washington were written.

“The danger with the current package is not only the increase in fees but … the increase in fees and taxes on specific exports,” Sen. Simon Sefzik (R-42nd District) said Tuesday.

“There’s pretty much two potential options: Either one, like with this gas export, taxed states are going to find other places to receive their gas, their imports, in which case that’s going to disincentive production in our state, which will cost jobs and harm the economy, or refineries will choose to eat the cost and still produce those exports,” he said. “But that will still harm the economy because those refineries then can’t use those funds to invest in other things, which as a result cost jobs.”

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Free youth transit access, expanded traffic cameras within transportation budget passed in Senate