Washington Governor to Propose Major Investment in Transportation

Washington Governor Gregoire was a strong advocate for transportation issues during her eight-year term. Image – WSDOT Flickr.

Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire announced that next week she will release a proposal to increase investment in transportation improvements.

The proposal will “rival the multi-billion-dollar deal” of 2005 that included a 9.5-cent gas tax increase and other revenues that provided roughly $7 billion over about 16 years, reports the Associated Press (“Gregoire to propose major transportation package”). About 200 projects were funded, and nearly all projects completed to date were delivered on time and/or under budget.

Gregoire did not run for re-election, but still is required by law to draft and deliver a budget by December 20. How much of that document becomes the blueprint for incoming Governor Jay Inslee the remains to be seen.

Inslee was non-committal about the report. “We are working on a number of things, including a legislative agenda,” said spokesman Sterling Clifford. During the campaign Inslee said he would veto tax increases but left the door open for revenues tied to a transportation package.”

The development of a Gregoire proposal had been rumored for weeks. In a sign of just how important the issue is, several other groups are developing their own transportation investment proposals. The Washington Roundtable/Association of Washington Business, Transportation Choices, a coalition of Puget Sound cities, and others reportedly have finalized their proposals. Learn more from our recent story, “The Transportation Crisis Facing Washington’s Next Governor.”

It sounds like Gregoire’s proposal will focus on maintenance and preservation, and will propose funding for a limited number of projects.  And a gas tax increase will almost certainly be proposed:  “You can’t take that off the table,” she said, noting that there a limited number of places you can look for transportation money. “The only things that give you a decent amount of money are things like the gas tax.”

In more good news, Gregoire commented that she’s talked transportation issues with Gov.-elect Inslee. “A lot of people want a transportation package,” she said. “I’ve really focused on that in my conversations with him.”

It’s a steep hill to passing a transportation investment bill in 2013. The legislature must figure out how where to find an additional $1b or more for K-12 education, as a result of a court case.  Add to that a state budget deficit, and that in November 62% of voters approved a law requiring at least 2/3 of the legislature to add or increase taxes.  But stakeholders can’t afford to give up the fight before it starts.

Kudos to outgoing Governor Gregoire for keeping the conversation alive, and giving stakeholders a serious starting point for the 2013 legislative session.

Learn more from our recent stories:

Challenge for Washington’s New Governor: Economic Competitiveness and Transportation Issues