Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you for allowing me to serve the 5th Legislative District and share your voice in Olympia on state issues. As we begin the third special legislative session called by the governor this year, I hope you will share your thoughts with me on the issues being discussed. In his press conference Tuesday, the governor outlined five goals he wants to accomplish in one week to ensure the Boeing 777X manufacturing and carbon fiber wing work are located here in Washington. He outlined these goals for the special session:
- pass a tax incentive package for aerospace businesses in Washington;
- pass legislation to speed up project permitting efficiency for expansion of the 777X production facility;
- address additional investments in workforce development and training;
- pass a transportation tax package (gas tax and other transportation fees for current and new projects around the state); and
- adopt an executive rule (made solely by the governor) regarding fish consumption and water quality changes.
Tax incentives, project permitting and other ideas to improve our state's competitiveness
We all appreciate Boeing and the great jobs it creates not only at its many facilities around our state, but also all the jobs created in ancillary aerospace industries statewide. We've talked about how tax incentives, if used properly, can grow jobs and generate more tax collections for the state and it is great to see bipartisan support for legislation that acknowledges this reality. Additionally, I am pleased to see bipartisan agreement on other issues, such as streamlined permitting and regulatory reform, to help our manufacturers, Boeing in particular. However, this is just the start of a long-overdue discussion about how we take these same ideas and apply them to all industries, large and small, to grow our economy and give everyone a chance to find a great paying job.
Transportation tax package
While I do support measures that improve the state's business climate and hope we continue to work to make Washington a great place to live, work and raise a family, I do not support the proposal to pass a transportation tax increase package and believe it will do more to harm the economy at this point than help it.
To be clear, I will not support a gas tax increase without meaningful reforms within the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and fundamental changes to policies that stall and add millions in costs to road and bridge projects. The reform proposals I support would:
- require WSDOT to report construction and design errors costing taxpayers $500,000 or more to the Legislature along with a plan to avoid making the same mistakes twice;
- reform prevailing wage requirements;
- stop charging sales tax on public transportation projects;
- reform procurement laws to allow for public-private partnerships to deliver public transportation projects quicker and more cost-effectively;
- restore balance to transportation funding by vastly increasing our investment in general purpose road lane construction to address congestion points;
- address the disproportionate subsidies for mass transit and bicycle lanes;
- change the design for the Columbia River Crossing to not include light rail and accommodate the height of ships and freight that move along the waterway;
- reform the system that encourages environmental lawsuits on transportation projects; and
- Reform Washington State Ferries in ways that address staffing issues and ferry design flaws and building costs.
I know not all of these issues can be tackled at once, but making congestion relief through more lane capacity is a reachable goal. The non-partisan think tank, Washington Policy Center, conducted a poll this week and found that adding capacity to highways was a top priority for residents. You can see the results of the poll here. This same group also offered some common-sense recommendations I believe should be considered as part of any transportation tax package proposed by the Legislature. You can read the recommendations here. The following information demonstrates how roadway capacity and miles traveled have changed over the years:
- In 1982, drivers traveled 14.6 million miles per day in the Seattle region.
- In 2010, drivers traveled about 30 million miles per day in the Seattle region.
- In 1982, the Seattle region had 1,345 miles of freeway lanes.
- In 2010, the Seattle region had only 1,874 miles of freeway lanes.
Our transportation infrastructure has not even kept pace with minimal population growth and the amount of freeway miles driven in the part of the state with the most traffic congestion. No amount of additional mass transit or bike lanes are going get us out of this mess – we need to start building and investing in more freeway lanes so we can efficiently move vehicles and freight throughout our region.
As the most trade-dependent state in the nation, we need freeways that allow for goods to move around the state and get to our ports, including the Seattle Port, efficiently. And, we must honor our workers who must commute by car daily because of their schedule, family obligations or convenience by building a system that caters to the top way people travel – in their personal car. Clogging our roads by converting multi-use lanes to bus and bike lanes to force folks onto transit or bikes has not and will not work.
As you can see, I believe we must be practical in our solutions and maximize the tax dollars you send to Olympia to best serve the people of the state.
I hope we have a productive dialogue on both the business-friendly legislation and how we address transportation needs, including critical reforms that save money and deliver projects faster. You are part of the legislative process and I hope you will participate by watching the public hearings and legislative debates online at tvw.org, sending me an e-mail at Jay.Rodne@leg.wa.gov or coming down to testify on bills, if you have the time. You can find the committee and public hearing schedule here.
Thank you, again, for allowing me to serve you.