Gov. Jay Inslee Sunday announced he would accept language in a proposed transportation package intended to hinder one of his environmental priorities. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Judy Clibborn says a deal has been reached with Republicans on the package.
OLYMPIA — The major obstacle to reaching agreement on a statewide transportation package disappeared Sunday morning, as Gov. Jay Inslee announced he would accept “poison pill” language in the measure intended to hinder one of his environmental priorities.
And Sunday afternoon, Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chair of the House Transportation Committee, announced that Democrats and Republicans had reached a deal on the package itself.
In addition to the approximately $15 billion in funding, the package includes the authorization sought for the full $15 billion in Sound Transit’s rail-extension ballot measure, according to Clibborn.
“The deal is done,” said Clibborn. “It’s just now, do we have the votes and are people happy with the deal we struck?”
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The Republican proposal passed by the Senate earlier this year allowed authorizing only $11 billion for Sound Transit.
If the Sound Transit measure is approved by voters, that expansion would be funded by local property- and sales-tax increases, as well as car-tab hikes.
The language on low-carbon fuel standards, inserted by Republican negotiators, would have blocked funding for public transit in the package if Inslee instituted low-carbon fuel standards.
Inslee had sought the standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but Republicans have argued that it would raise gas prices.
“I oppose that and have worked hard to find a better alternative,” Inslee said in a statement. “But legislators tell me it is essential to passing the $15 billion multimodal transportation package and authorizing an additional $15 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion.”
“I will sign the bill even with this provision because of the jobs, safety improvements and traffic relief that the investments would provide,” he added.
The announcement appears to clear the way for an agreement on a package, previous versions of which have been largely funded by an 11.7-cent hike in the gas tax.
Both Democratic and Republican versions of the proposal earlier this year funded road projects such as the west side of the new Highway 520 bridge, the North Spokane Corridor freeway, the widening of Interstate 405, an extension of the Interstate 90 rebuild over Snoqualmie Pass, and the Highway 167 project in South King and North Pierce counties.
The proposals also funded rail and transit projects, pedestrian walkways and bike paths.
In a statement, two GOP senators involved in transportation negotiations hailed Inslee’s move.
“We appreciate the difficult decision the governor has made and applaud him for not allowing a single issue to stand in the way of achieving these important investments” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn.
“As work continues to resolve the final details of a new transportation revenue package we have never been more optimistic about its success,” they added.
Lawmakers and the governor in 2014 failed to reach an agreement on a package.
The developments Sunday came on the first day of a third legislative special session, and lawmakers are also working on a tight deadline to pass a 2015-17 state operating budget.
Inslee and legislative leaders Saturday announced a broad agreement on a budget and were aiming to have the details of the deal worked out by early Monday evening.
Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond. the chief GOP budget writer, said early Sunday evening that lawmakers were on track to hit that goal.
If legislators and Inslee can’t complete a budget the end of Tuesday, parts of the state government will shut down beginning Wednesday.