Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This week marks the halfway point of the 2013 legislative session. That means that this week, the weekend and likely next week we will be on the House floor debating and voting on the many bills that passed out of committee. I encourage constituents to watch live coverage, or even the archived coverage, of the floor debate in the House and Senate online at www.tvw.org.
In this brief update, I will share my thoughts on the transportation reforms I support and the House majority party's proposal for new and higher taxes to fund transportation projects. I will also share my thoughts on the state Supreme Court ruling on Initiative 1053, the two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to increase taxes.
As always, please contact me with your questions, comments or if I can assist you with a state agency.
In my last e-mail update, I discussed the House majority party's $10 billion transportation tax package, which includes a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax, reinstatement of the voter-rejected Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) and a host of other fees and taxes. I believe before we ask more from taxpayers to fund transportation projects, reforms that lower costs and fulfill the promises made in the last gas tax package must be implemented. Some of the reforms I support include:
- Authorizing an exemption from the Shoreline Management Act on some projects. This was done for the 520 Bridge project, which saved taxpayers $165 million. This reform could save as much as $500 million on the Columbia River Crossing mega-project.
- Limiting wetland mitigation for projects to a one-to-one ratio, instead of the current practice of acquiring as many as 10 acres of wetland for every one acre disturbed by a transportation project.
- Exempting transportation projects from the state sales tax so more money we all pay for transportation projects is not siphoned off to the general fund portion of the state budget to pay for programs unrelated to transportation projects.
- Limiting bonding terms for transportation projects to 15 years instead of current 30-year bonding. My legislation, House Bill 1989, would make this important, cost-saving change.
Taxpayer protections overturned
Last week, the state Supreme Court issued its ruling in the League of Education Voters et al v. State of Washington lawsuit that was aimed at answering the question: Is the voter-passed two-thirds vote of the Legislature requirement to increase taxes constitutional? The court ruled it was not and threw out the provisions in Initiative 1053, passed in 2010, and by default the provisions in Initiative 1185 passed just last fall.
Voters in the 47th District passed Initiative 1185 with a solid 70 percent support. In fact, 44 of 49 legislative districts and all of the counties in Washington supported the passage of the two-thirds vote to increase taxes protections in Initiative 1185.
I do not believe voters support this protection because they are anti-tax, but rather they want a bipartisan consensus on tax increases. The only way to reinstate the supermajority vote for tax increases is to cement it in the state constitution. You can read my statement on the ruling here.
And finally, you can watch my latest video update (click on the picture to start the video):