1. In order to finally pass a transportation package, governor Jay Inslee agreed to what Democrats have been calling the "poison pill" all year—a Republican provision that says if Inslee enacts a low-carbon-fuels standard on cars, all the multimodal funding in the $15 billion package—about $1 billion in money for pedestrian projects, bikes, and transit—will be converted into roads spending.
Inslee said in a statement yesterday:
“The state needs a transportation package and lawmakers have negotiated a bipartisan proposal that is nearly ready to be voted on.
“The current bill has a poison pill that pits clean air against transit. I oppose that and have worked hard to find a better alternative. But legislators tell me it is essential to passing the $15 billion multimodal transportation package...
“I will sign the bill even with this provision because of the jobs, safety improvements, and traffic relief that the investments would provide."
The proposal also includes a longstanding GOP demand that sales taxes from transportation projects go to the transportation package and not to the general fund.
The Republican senate had substantial leverage over the Democrats in negotiations because Democrats had made getting authorization for $15 billion in Sound Transit taxing authority their top priority. (ST3 is expected go to voters in 2016 if the transportation package actually passes the house.) Inslee's statement acknowledged this fact. "It is essential to...authorizing an additional $15 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion," his statement also said.
The original Republican senate bill only authorized $11 billion for Sound Transit light rail expansion, which wouldn't have been enough. (ST wants to expand north from Lynnwood to Everett and south from Federal Way to Tacoma, with some expansion inside Seattle too. An $11 billion authorization would have sabotaged those plans, and likely doomed Sound Transit at the polls.)
However, I'm hearing that a GOP PowerPoint briefing on the deal says Democrats made a concession on ST: In order to cover the money they think is being lost thanks to the GOP transportation sales tax provision, ST has to put $500 million into the state operating budget to offset the hit. And it's not contingent on the public vote—so if ST3 loses at the polls, ST still has to cough up $500 million. (Update/Correction: Only ST3 projects would be taxed. Meanwhile, Sound Transit estimates that the tax will raise project cots one to two percent.)
The deal does nudge up the amount of multimodal dollars from the initial Republican senate bill, from $752 million to about $983 million now, about 7 percent of the overall package.
But that listless increase along with the poison pill means the final deal is likely to draw opposition from liberal Democrats in the house.
"I never thought we would end this session worse off on greenhouse gas emissions than when we started," state representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, West Seattle, Burien), the chair of the house environment committee, told me this morning.
Speaking of greenhouse gas emissions: One inducement for Seattle Democrats, at least on the senate side, is $1.75 billion to complete the 520 highway project.
In addition to frustrated liberals and greens, watch for a handful of hardline antitax Republicans to vote against the package as well; the deal includes an 11.9-cent gas tax increase.
With that strange bedfellows batch of no votes—call them the green tea coalition—the transportation package isn't a done deal yet.
2. Legislators also reached a deal this weekend on the $38 billion 2015–17 budget, which puts $1.3 billion into K–12 education to meet the McCleary mandate, but may still frustrate the state supreme court because the budget relies on transfers and local money to fund schools.
It also still includes money from pot revenues which were mandated by voters to fund drug addiction and health programs.
Q13 Fox has some of the spending details:
Invests about $1.3 billion in K–12 basic education to address growing school needs, meets the state’s constitutional obligations, expands access to full-day kindergarten and decreases class sizes in grades K–3.
Reduces the cost of tuition at the state’s four-year colleges and universities and two-year community colleges, and increases funding for College Bound Scholarships.
Makes a major investment in early learning, including Early Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
Increases funding for state parks.
Fully funds collective bargaining agreements for state employees and home care worker contracts and retirement benefits.
Funds the Initiative 732 cost-of-living raise for teachers, plus funds for additional teacher compensation.
Makes investments to address court-mandated fixes in the state’s mental health system and increases funding for other important social services.
Provides a 2015–17 operating budget of about $38 billion and meets the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement.
Funding sources include account transfers and a net increase in revenue from closing tax exemptions and extending some current exemptions that support needed jobs. Includes provision to expand Washington’s ability to collect taxes from out-of-state entities that make sales within the state.
3. Speaking of transportation funding: After rejecting calls from the left wing of the council to supplant some of the nine-year property tax proposal ($275 per year for a median home) with an employer tax and a parking tax, the city council is set to send mayor Ed Murray's $930 million transportation proposal to voters today.
4. Details to come: Socialist city council member Kshama Sawant is setting up a rent-control debate next month with PubliCola readers' favorite villain, Roger Valdez, the spokesman for developer lobbying group Smart Growth Seattle.