Transcript – Transportation Issues in Washington Gubernatorial Debate

Washington’s gubernatorial candidates debate transportation issues. Image – Associated Press.

Democratic candidate (former) Congressman Jay Inslee and Republican candidate State Attorney General Rob McKenna squared off for their first debate, sponsored by the Association of Washington Business. Yesterday we wondered if transportation would come up, and looked at few instances in which it already had (“Will Transportation Surface in Washington Gubernatorial Debate Tuesday?”).

There were two questions addressing transportation specifically, and we’ve transcribed the exchange for you.

A video of the roughly hour-long debate is archived by TVW (the state’s version of C-Span) here. The transportation issues begin at 44:10.

Real Clear Politics has a summary of recent polling on the race.

The questions and answers:

1.  [Moderator] Austin Jenkins (44:10)
The Connecting Washington Task Force has concluded the amount needed to fully address the needs of our transportation system is approximately fifty billion dollars, that’s billion with a “b,” with at least twenty billion over the next decade. [Learn more about the task force’s recommendations from our story.]

When is the right time to ask voters to support a new round of transportation funding in Washington and what would that package look like?

McKenna (@44:39):
The right time will be in the fall of 2013 or the fall of 2014, depending on how long it takes to work with the legislature to put together a package with the best projects, uh, with a funding mechanism that

And voters will have to decide if they want to approve that package or not.  We know what the top project priorities are, we’ve known them for a long time. They are projects like turning SR 509 into a meaningful freight corridor connecting the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle and the airport of course.

Projects like extending 167 to sort of finally connect from Puyallup to the tideflats of Tacoma. Projects like fixing the interchange along JBLM, Joint Base Lewis McChord, which has become an incredible bottleneck.

And other projects as well. An important project in Spokane area, of course, is the North South Freeway. We need to continue making progress on that investment. We need to finish paying for SR 520, the replacement for the Evergreen Point floating bridge and finish the Viaduct project as well.

We need to pay attention to I-90 which is such a critical corridor for goods and people moving east and west, including agricultural products moving from the east side of the state to our ports on the west side of the state.

We need to look for ways to provide more support for local governments so they can expand transit service.  Transit is local function, not a state function, but we ought to be offering them ways or  working with them to find ways, where they can continue to expand transit service to meet the demands of transit riders.

And we need to pay close attention to freight mobility while we do all of this.

Inslee (46:10):
Well I certainly think freight mobility needs to be a higher priority in our transportation planning. But here’s what we need if our state is gonna move forward and we know transportation is absolutely fundamental to job creation.

And that is trust of Washingtonians in our decision making process. Trust in the state of Washington. And right now we’re lacking that. That’s one of the reasons I have committed to a Lean Management system, of bringing Lean Management principles to every agency of our government including the Department of Transportation.

There is no reason the systems that the Boeing Company uses to assure the efficiency and to drive out waste should not be used at the Department of Transportation and every other agency for that matter. And as Governor I will make sure that they are.

McKenna (46:59)
Well I have to point out again the Congressman didn’t answer the question, “When is the right time to put this measure on the ballot?”

The fact is the newspapers, the media, have reported that he refuses to take a position on when or even whether to take a package to the voters to allow them to decide whether to make the next round of investment in critical transportation projects.

Inslee (47:22)
The right time is when we regain the trust of Washingtonians who in fact vote and support a transportation funding package that uses our multiple tools in the toolbox to get this job done. Now, that is not a calendar date, it’s a date of what we need to do, which is to build people’s confidence and trust in the state government.


2. [Moderator] Austin Jenkins (47:45)
There has been talk over the years of private financing of road projects. Fair to say, Democratic Speaker of the House Frank Chopp would probably lie down in the middle of the road to block the privatization of highway projects. He says it increases costs. But backers say private financing is a way to jump start stalled projects.

Mr. Inslee what is your position on public private partnerships to fund projects like the North Spokane Corridor or the new Columbia River Crossing?

Inslee (48:09)
Well my view is not based on ideology. I think ideology should not be something that blinds us for creative opportunities to finance any of the projects we need, including public private partnerships. I’m a person who views we should look at multiple avenues and decides the ones that work. And I’ve seen public private partnerships work.

Now as in many things the devil is indeed in the details. And we do need to make sure that we have tough negotiators, negotiating any contract with a private entity. But we have seen that work. And we’re gonna have to think of all the tools at our disposal to get that done.

One of the reasons I would support in the right circumstances these provisions is I do believe private enterprise can produce good products for state government. I am not a Democrat who believes that private enterprise somehow is inherently suspect in our ability to grow jobs. And I realize that if we are going to grow jobs it has to be a partnership between a more efficient government and private entities that bring capital to the marketplace.

Now when I speak of capital it’s one of the reasons part of my proposals is to propose a tax break for some businesses to get capital in an early stage.  Now that’s not necessarily transportation.

So my view is yes I would encounter those and consider those under the right circumstances.

McKenna (49:31)
Well I certainly don’t agree with the Congressman’s proposal which he announced at the beginning of his campaign that we should tap our state pension funds to invest in start ups to provide capital to ventures in early stages.  I think that’s wrong and it violate the fiduciary responsibilities of our pension board and its members.

I do agree that public private partnerships can be a useful tool in funding transportation infrastructures. In fact the state started moving in that direction back in the late 1980’s when Congressman Inslee was a state Representative. Unfortunately it went off the rails so to speak after that and did not end up actually completing any of those projects on a public private basis.

We need to go back to that model. We need to go back to it because we need to attract private capital in addition to the public dollars we have raise.

Inslee (50:17)
One of the skills of leadership is listening. Some of the proposals I talked about earlier in my tenure as a candidate have caused some concern for people. So I am not proposing and will not propose changes to our investment of our pension system. And frankly they’ve made some improvements in helping small businesses get access to capital.


Learn more from these stories:

Inslee, McKenna square off at Bing, Spokesman-Review

Inslee vs. McKenna: Big differences revealed in debate, Seattle PI

Wash. Gubernatorial Hopefuls Weigh In On Coal, KUOW

Inslee, McKenna face off in 1st gubernatorial debate, Associated Press

McKenna, Inslee meet in 1st gubernatorial debate in Spokane, Seattle Times