April 1, 2019
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House Transportation budget hits $10 billion mark for the first time

The House Transportation Committee voted Wednesday for a 2019-21 transportation budget that would cross the $10 billion mark for the first time in a biennial transportation budget. The proposal would not increase transportation taxes.

The plan would pay for some fish barrier removal projects throughout the state, and would ramp up infrastructure projects as part of the $16 billion Connecting Washington package approved in 2015 by the Legislature.

“It’s obvious that this budget is a better budget than what we were given to start from,” House Transportation Committee Chair Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said last week. “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 are needs across the state.”

The House budget 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.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday passed its biennial budget out of committee. Senate Bill 5214 would spend $9.8 billion, including $5.2 billion on capital spending -- an 18 percent increase from the current biennial. About $3.1 billion of that would go to fix culverts that block salmon passage. The Senate budget also includes:

  • $40 million for the SR 167/SR 509 Puget Sound Gateway;
  • $17 million to widen Interstate 90 between Snoqualmie Pass and Easton; and
  • $11 million on the Route 155/Omak Bridge.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, has also proposed a 10-year transportation package that would meet the full cost of repairing fish culverts as required by a state Supreme Court ruling, as well as a number of other statewide projects.

The Daily News also covered the transportation budget.

To learn more, contact AWB Government Affairs Director Mike Ennis.

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Spring Meeting
A Better Way Forward

Four reforms to rein in state spending, avoid higher taxes

By Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn

Last week, House Democrats unveiled their $53 billion state operating budget proposal for the upcoming 2019-21 biennium. Unsurprisingly, their budget dramatically increases state spending -- funded by new taxes on businesses, home sales and capital income -- proving yet again that it's easy to spend money that isn't yours.

All told, their proposal grows spending by more than $8.5 billion beyond current levels. For context, when I was first elected in 2014, the state budget spent $33.7 billion. Between economic growth and new taxes, state revenue will have increased by about 57 percent in five years.

Has your salary grown by 57 percent since 2014? Probably not, as average annual wage growth is hovering below 4 percent.

Structural issues are largely responsible for this alarming rate of budget growth. Each year, lawmakers enact all sorts of new programs and services, predicated on promises of long-term savings and improved social and health outcomes. Once enacted, these programs are almost always automatically funded in subsequent years, with virtually no oversight or review by the Legislature.

The result: spending persistently outpaces revenue, enabling our most essential services to be held hostage in exchange for new taxes.

There is a better way...

Read the full guest editorial in The Seattle Times
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Salmon and dams can coexist

By Kennewick May Don Britain; Pasco Mayor Matt Wakins; Richland Mayor Robert Thompson; and West Richland Mayor Brent Gerry

For more than 20 years. there has been an ongoing debate about the impact of the four Snake River dams on the Pacific Northwest's salmon population. Since the 1970s, billions of dollars have been spent to upgrade the dams and to improve salmon habitat.

The results? According to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the average number of returning salmon and steelhead are more than double what they were when counts first began when the Bonneville Dam started operations in 1938. Despite this clear evidence that dams and fish can coexist, the debate continues.

More recently, the struggles of the southern resident orca population have further stoked the debate. No one disagrees that the health and future of the orca population must be preserved. However, the numbers clearly show that removing the dams will not save the orcas...

Ironically, at the same time there is a push for the Washington state Legislature to fund this study on the impacts of removing the dams, there are also several bills to push for carbon reduction. If the goal in Washington is to reduce carbon, the existing clean hydropower resources play an essential role in keeping our air clean. These dams generate some of the cheapest, most reliable, carbon-free electricity in the Pacific Northwest...

Read the full guest column in The Seattle Times
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