No taxes proposed in House transportation budget

No taxes proposed in House transportation budget
The House Transportation Committee voted 28-3 in favor of a proposed 2019-21 transportation budget that funds Connecting Washington projects and fish barrier removal without calling for new taxes.

The House Transportation Committee voted 28-3 on Mar. 27 in favor of a proposed 2019-21 transportation budget that increases funding for fish barrier removal projects throughout the state, including those not covered by a court injunction. The proposed budget also ramps up infrastructure projects as part of the $16 billion Connecting Washington transportation package approved in 2015 by the legislature. Notably, the budget also does not propose any new taxes.

Sponsored by Transportation Chair Jake Fey (D-27), HB 1160 would spend $10 billion over the two-year period, a $600 million increase from the 2017-19 transportation budget with the 2018 supplemental included.

“It’s obvious that this budget is a better budget than what we were given to start from,” Fey told colleagues on Mar. 27. “I think we have a very responsible budget that tries to meet the needs throughout the state, not just in the Puget sound area but across the state, because there is needs across the state.”

Funding for Connecting Washington projects includes:

  • $396 million for state Route 520 corridor improvements;
  • $384 million to widen and improve the Interstate 405 corridor between Bellevue and Renton; and
  • $165 million to expand the Interstate 5 corridor through Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Meanwhile, the budget also includes $189 million to finish decommissioning the Alaskan Way Viaduct through 2020, paid for through the 2005 Transportation Partnership Program (TPA).

The proposed budget also nearly doubles funding – from $90 million to $214 million – for fish barrier removal within areas managed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that is subject to a court injunction. However, it also includes $24 million for the state Fish Barrier Removal Board, which handles culverts on private, local and county roads. In the 2017-19 budget, the state provided the board with enough money to pay for 13 barrier removal projects.

At a Mar. 25 public hearing of the House Transportation Committee, Fey told colleagues that “I didn’t make everybody happy, but that’s not my job. My job is to come up with a responsibly balanced budget proposal.”

In support was ranking minority member Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-2), saying at the Mar. 25 meeting that he had “great confidence in the product” due to the bipartisan way it was crafted.

Although he voted in favor of the budget, Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-20) said there are “things (that) still need to be worked on, adding “I think there’s a lot of good things in here.”

Among the three members opposed was Rep. Morgan Irwin (R-31), though he said, “I think we’re working in the right direction.”

Also included in the budget for WSDOT’s Aviation Program is $2.5 million to fund an airport revolving loan account. The program and the board overseeing it were authorized under the 2017-2019 capital budget approved in 2018, which also provided funding for the account. However, a House bill codifying the board and the program was vetoed by Governor Jay Inslee after it cleared the legislature, and lawmakers have yet to approve similar bills introduced this session.

The Senate’s proposed 2019-21 transportation budget via SB 5214 received a public hearing Mar. 27 and is scheduled for executive action Mar. 28.

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