Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to update you on an emerging issue that legislators are currently addressing: the Senate Democrats’ Transportation Funding Plan (SB 5974). In a very one-sided manner, the majority party put together a plan for the state of Washington with absolutely no respect or regard for Republican input. It looks more like a campaign checklist than a full-focused plan to address our transportation needs across the entire state.
It does do a few positive things, including completion of major highway projects, but allocates excess funding for mass transit when ridership has declined, and fares are not being collected. The Democrats’ plan helps transit, rail and other modes of transportation which mainly benefits people in Seattle and around the Puget Sound – but does little for the rest of us. There are very few projects included in this funding plan for the east side of the state, especially the 16th District. While we recognize that our state has real transportation needs, these improvements should reach every corner of the state. This plan punishes drivers, plain and simple.
- Increases fees for enhanced driver’s licenses by 75%
- Increases fees for state identification cards by 75%
- Increases fees for vehicle license plates by 500%
- Increases fees for motorcycle plates by 500%
- Increases fees for a new photo for a driver’s license or ID card by 100%
- Has a potential 2% tax increase on heating homes with natural gas
- Has a potential increase on local sales tax by another tenth of a cent
On top of that, state gas prices are expected to increase when two new taxes — the low carbon fuel standard and cap and trade are implemented in a few years. Working families will most certainly be affected by this. As I listened to the Democrats roll out this plan, I couldn’t help but worry for the people across our state who have struggled just to make ends meet. This proposal will only make life more difficult for them.
Additionally, it has long been a tradition for the chairs of the Transportation Committees, either Republican or Democrat, to include input from the committee’s ranking members. Not only is it good policy, it increases the likelihood for bipartisan support in the final budget plan. Our Republican leaders on the Transportation Committees were not consulted or invited to the table as they put this package together. To say that I am disappointed that Democrats did not let us be part of the process would be an understatement.
My Republican colleagues have offered transportation funding solutions which would not increase costs for people living and working in our state. We proposed using vehicle sales tax to fund transportation projects which just redirects existing tax dollars, rather than increasing fees.
Tuesday night on the Senate floor, the majority party brought this proposal up for a floor vote after a long day of debating and passing bills. My Republican colleagues and I were quickly muzzled with a procedural maneuver after we began speaking candidly about the implications of this plan, forcing a final vote. Not surprisingly, SB 5974 passed on a party line vote: 29-20.
The Transportation plan will now be considered by the House of Representatives. I remain hopeful that in the next few weeks more work will be done to make this transportation package more beneficial for people on both sides of the Cascade mountains. Stay tuned!
Please remember that I am here to serve you. Although we may not be able to meet face to face, I encourage you to reach out to my office and to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns on matters of importance to you. And please, if you don’t already, follow me on Facebook. I look forward to hearing from you.