Sen. Joe Fain (R-47, Auburn), has, according to several sources close to the current negotiations over the pending $10 billion transportation package, convinced three house Republicans to change their votes and go against the proposal that's scheduled for a vote today.

Fain, one of a few moderate Republicans in the senate—along with Sens. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island) and Andy Hill (R-45, Redmond)— does not want to risk his moderate cred by having to kill the package (which includes major projects for the Eastside, including money for I-405) himself. Despite the importance of the package to the Eastside, Hill would have to go against the anti-tax purists in the Majority Coaltion Caucus, which would jeopardize any agreements he and Sen. Hill (the budget chair) have with the right wing of his party to go along with a larger budget deal.Fain, one of a few moderate Republicans in the senate, doesn't want to risk his moderate cred by having to kill the transportation package, which includes major projects for the Eastside.

Last night, according to several sources monitoring the vote counts, four house Republicans—Reps. Hans Zeiger (R-25, Puyallup), Maureen Walsh (R-16, Walla Walla), Terry Nealey (R-16, Dayton), and Linda Kochmar (R-30, Federal Way)—were ready to side with the Democrats on the $10 billion, 10.5-cent gas tax increase. All four supported the package becuase it came with money for key projects in their districts such as $1.4 billion for SR 167-509 (in Zeiger and Kochmar's districts) and $85 million for the Federal Way Triangle (in Kochmar's district), plus $151 million for U.S. 12 (in Nealey and Walsh's district).

However, Sen. Fain reportedly convinced Walsh, Nealey, and Kochmar to change their votes (Rep. Zeiger, defying his party, is reportedly still an adamant yes), telling them their risky pro-tax vote would be for naught because the senate would just kill it anyway. (Of course, that means Fain and his moderate colleagues would have had to step up and take their own risky vote and help shoot down the package themselves.)

Fain tells PubliCola he has not had any conversations with Reps. Walsh, Nealey, or Kochmar about the transportation budget. He is "entirely focused on the operating budget," he says.

The house Democrats need all the Republican votes they can get to the pass the package. As Fizz noted this morning, the business commuinty is all for the package, and is frustrated that GOPers they support (and help elect) are not going along with the package.

I have messages in to the house Republicans and house transportation lead Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-41, Mercer Island) who was reportedly steamed at Fain.

UPDATE: Rep. Walsh says she did not talk to Sen. Fain "Fain never talked to me once... I did not once talk to Joe Fain. Sen. Fain popped his head in our caucs the other day to say hi, but he did not sit me down on this."

She says Fain's Eastside colleague Sen. Litzow—along with Sen. Curtis King (R-14, Yakima), the co-chair of the senate transportation committee—talked to her about the bill. The message: "the liklihood of this thing moving in the senate is nil," King told her.

Walsh says Sen. Litzow told her "he thinks it's dead" in the senate," adding: "Mo, why would you do that [vote for it]? I don't care if you're the 55th vote or the 54th vote, but don't be the 50th vote." 

She concluded: "If I could get those projects, I'd stick my neck out and say yes. They're very exciting projects, great economic development projects for my district. But I'm not going to stick my neck out and say yes and be one of the deciding votes in the house and have it die in the senate. I'm not gonna stick my neck out just to have it chopped off when the senate isn't going to even entertain this package. Then I'd have to do lots of 'splainin' back in my district."

UPDATE: The bill lost today 48-42. Rep. Zeiger was the only Republican to vote for the package.

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