PubliCola Afternoon Jolt logo
Afternoon Jolt

No Jolt from Olympia today.

With disagreements remaining between a $10 billion Democratic state house transportation package and a $12 billion Republican-dominated state senate package (though mind you, the house has passed its package and the senate has never passed theirs), today's negotiations reportedly didn't achieve any breakthroughs.

The key differences in the competing proposals remain:

1. The house dedicates about 10 percent, or about $900 million out of a $10 billion package, to pedestrian, transit, and biking projects (the rest goes to roads), while the senate dedicates about 2 percent, $205 million out of a $12 billion package to ped, transit, and bikes (the rest to roads). The original house proposal contained $450 million for light rail between Vancouver, WA and Portland, but the Democrats shelved it in the face of overwhelming GOP opposition; the $450 million is now divvied up among other projects in the package.

Both packages raise about $10 billion from a 10.5-cent gas tax while the senate package adds about $1.5 billion from roads construction sales tax money and toxic cleanup fund money to the package.

2. The senate wants to dedicate the sales tax on new road construction projects, about $750 million, to the package, instead of to the general fund, where that money currently goes. The Democrats in the house, with an eye on education funding, don't like the idea.

3. The senate wants to use the toxic cleanup account for stormwater mitigation funding for roads projects. The Democrats say the account, the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) account, approved by the voters in 1988, needs to pay for toxic sites.

Both packages include a local option for King County Metro, which would allow King County voters to approve up to a one-and-a-half percent increase in the motor-vehicle excise tax to raise about $150 million, of which 60 percent would go to Metro bus service—which otherwises faces services cuts of up to 17 percent—and 40 percent to local road maintenance projects.

If the state doesn't approve a package, King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed "Plan B," which would ask voters to approve a vehicle license fee (which, as opposed to the MVET, is regressive because it's a flat fee on cars, rather than indexed to the value of the car) and a regressive sales tax.

4. The senate has also been pushing for "reforms" to transportation budgeting, such as "recalculating" prevailing wages. The house Democrats point out that they already included some GOP reforms in the package they passed earlier this year, such as a Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-25, Puyallup) bill that streamlined the construction permitting process and a Rep. Jay Rodne (R-5, N. Bend) bill that "right-sized" transportation projects by adding oversight that ensured the projects weren't excessively large.

We couldn't get much from either side. From the Democrats: "We presented our latest offer, they asked for a few days to respond. We're not making much progress at this point. The three big issues are stormwater, sales tax, and multimodal. Our offer contained ideas to bridge the gap on all three."

And from the Republican side, which reportedly only has a handful of moderates lined up to support its evasive proposal, a spokesman for the Republican-dominated senate Majority Coalition Caucus transportation leader Curtis King (R-14, Yakima) said: "He will not be able to call you today. Very busy with transportation negotiations, as you can imagine."

And a Jolt from SeaTac.

King County Elections reports that SeaTac Proposition 1, the $15 minimum wage for airport-related workers, maintained its  77-point margin of victory in a recount requested by opponents. Historically, according to the county, a recount hasn’t changed the outcome of an election in more than 10 years.

However—scandal!—the county also reports that “the recount did identify  four write-in votes cast in the Auburn City Council race that were not accompanied by an actual name that should have been tallied as undervotes (blank votes) rather than write-in votes.” The four blank votes did not affect the outcome of the Auburn City Council race.