Seattle – King County Executive Dow Constantine criticized the Washington State Legislature yesterday for failing to address key transportation issues during a contentious legislative session that extended an additional month with two special sessions called in order to reach a compromise on the state budget.
Constantine decried the lack of action on Senate Bill 6582 and House Bill 2751 in his statement saying, “Despite having the votes and bipartisan support for ‘local-option’ bills to allow counties to ask voters for desperately-needed transit and road revenues, lawmakers failed to bring those bills to the floor.”
The Senate and House bills would have authorized local Transportation Benefit Districts (TBD), such as the King County TBD, to call for a referendum to the people to taxes, fees, tolls or other charges to fund transportation improvements. The proposed law would have allowed up to a $40 vehicle fee or excise tax and a one, two or three cent per gallon fuel tax.
Last August the King County Council approved a $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicles to prevent massive cuts to King County Metro mass transit service however, the charge will expire in two years leaving the county to again deal with the budget shortfall. Constantine added, “The Legislature’s inaction keeps bus riders in a state of uncertainty. Sustainable funding for transit is needed within two years…”
The county also faces a crisis on roads funding. “The current system for funding County roads across the state hasn’t been revisited in the last 25 years, and it no longer works. The failure of the state to address local roads funding has led to a sharp decline that required the layoff of 111 needed County roads workers over the last two years…” explained Constantine. Without the ability to ask the voters for additional funding the county faces another round of layoffs for road workers that will further delay much needed maintenance resulting in long-term degradation of important roadways in unincorporated areas.
All 98 State Representatives and half of the State Senators are up for re-election in the November general election. Currently, they are gearing up for the primaries that will take place in August and most will be holding local constituent meetings to shore up support. This is a good time to speak directly to your representatives and tell them your priorities.
If you want to keep King County transit strong and roads maintained let your Representatives and Senator know that they need to take action an authorize local option bills for Transportation Benefit Districts. You can find your legislators at the state district finder website.