Legislative Update – Week 7

The Senate transportation package was brought to the floor for passage this past Friday. The eight transportation reform bills were brought up first. Six of the reform bills, SB 5992-SB 5997, were passed on a bipartisan basis. The most controversial bill, SB 5990, shifting sales tax on transportation projects from the general fund to the transportation account , passed only with majority coalition votes, 26-23. Similarly, SB 5991, dedicating a portion of the environmental legacy stewardship account to transportation, passed by a 27-22 margin.

The new revenue bill, SB 5987, was brought to the floor, debated, and amended, but when it was time to vote a point of order was raised over whether the vote was a “new” tax. Under a rule adopted by the Senate this year, any new tax requires a 2/3 majority vote. Transportation revenue advocates argued that the increases in motor vehicle fuel tax and vehicle and license fees were not new taxes but increases to existing taxes. Due to time constraints the Senate adjourned and is expected to have a ruling on the point of order and subsequent votes on the remaining transportation revenue bills on Monday.

Several bills survived the Feb. 27th cutoff including HB 1757, which allows a transportation benefit district to adopt up to $50 vehicle fee councilmanically. SHB 1851, providing a SEPA exemption for local transportation repairs and replacement projects has moved out of rules and on to the floor calendar.  Two bad bills, HB 1601, venue for actions by or against a county, and SHB 1695, concrete aggregate recycling, made it past the cutoff. WSAC is working to kill HB 1601 and is working with the bill sponsor to limit SHB 1695’s impact to counties.

A complete list of bills being tracked can be found here.

Please contact Gary Rowe if you would like more information about any bills.

Legislative Update – Week 6

The Senate Transportation Committee passed their bipartisan transportation package out of committee.  The bipartisan package included three transportation revenue and spending bills together with six policy bills.  Two additional policy bills were passed out with only majority coalition votes.  Several amendments were offered with few passing.  An amendment that would set local revenue options at Sound Transit’s request was not adopted.  Amendments that eliminated a requirement for reform bills to pass before revenues would be allocated to transit also did not pass.

Two amendments affecting revenues to counties were offered by Senator Sheldon. His first amendment, which was approved, makes counties eligible for the complete streets grant program.  Since this is a new program it’s hard to say how much of the $160 million allocated to the grant program will be awarded to counties.  Senator Sheldon’s also offered an amendment to increase the allocation to counties (through CRAB) by $190 million.  This amendment was not agreed to by the committee.

The transportation package, as adopted by the committee, provides approximately $202 million over 16 years – $12.6 million per year.  Estimated annual allocations to counties can be found here.

With cutoff of transportation and fiscal bills on February 27th, several transportation committee bills are scheduled for executive action this week. HB 1757, increasing local option councilmanic vehicle fees from $20 to $50, has been passed on to rules.  HB 1868, expanding county road funding spending authority, has also been passed on the rules committee.  Of concern to counties, HB 1695, requiring use of recycled aggregates passed out of the House Environment Committee and is scheduled for hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 24th.

A complete list of bills being tracked can be found here.

Please contact Gary Rowe if you would like more information about any bills.

Legislative Update – Week 5

The Senate Transportation Committee leadership introduced a bipartisan transportation revenue and spending plan for the next 16 years.  The plan raises $15.1 billion by increasing fuel taxes by 11.7 cents, increasing vehicle and license fees, and selling bonds for construction projects.  The plan provides $8.2 billion for construction projects including completion of the western end of SR 520, SR 167/SR 509, and US 395.  The plan also allocates over $2.5 billion to state agencies for preservation, maintenance, and operations.

Funding through direct allocation and grants to local agencies totals about $1.3 billion: $502 million to cities and urban-focused programs, $486 million to transit programs, and $247 million to county programs.  The allocation to counties works out to about $15.5 million per year, an increase of $10.5 million compared to current allocations.  The proposal also provides local funding options for Sound Transit (.5% sales tax, .3% MVET, $.10/$1000 property tax) and transportation benefit districts ($40 councilmanic vehicle license fee (VLF) after $20 VLF in place for 2 years).

The transportation package includes eight transportation reform bills.  The reform bills include transferring sales tax from the general fund and funds from the environmental legacy stewardship account for a total of $1.05 billion.  Other reforms include ferry capital reforms, labor reforms, environmental permitting reforms, transportation goal reforms, and project delivery reforms.

More information on the transportation package can be found here.  Hearings on reform bills are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 17th at 3:30 PM with revenue bills scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 18th at 3:30 PM.

A list of bills being tracked can be found here.

Please contact Gary Rowe if you would like more information about any bills.

Washington State Association of County Engineers