This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
The job’s not done yet, lawmakers. Now it’s highway time.
It’s great that the Legislature’s Republicans and Democrats finally settled on a state operating budget that reportedly directs an additional $1 billion to schools. We’re looking forward to seeing the details, where the devil often resides.
But the passage of an operating budget was always a foregone conclusion, despite the months of bickering over its specific provisions. The Washington Constitution requires the Legislature to approve one.
A genuine accomplishment of this Legislature – that includes you, Republican senators – would be passage of a transportation budget to unplug bottlenecked corridors where the state’s freight and traffic are now getting slowly strangled.
The $10 billion package – approved Thursday by the House of Representatives – is of paramount importance to the state’s economy.
Only one Republican – Puyallup’s Hans Zeiger – had the guts to support it. Most other lawmakers in his party appear willing to kill it for one reason: The highway improvements require new tax revenue. These legislators chatter about massive reforms in the Department of Transportation and other near-term impossibilities, but it really comes down to evading a tax vote.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious, roads and bridges don’t grow on trees. Santa Claus doesn’t lug them down the chimney. You’ve got to buy them.
If you don’t need them, that’s one thing. But Washington sorely needs strategic investment in its infrastructure – in Spokane, at Snoqualmie Pass, on Interstate 405 and other places where cargo and cars are getting halted for lack of road capacity.
State Route 167 is the poster child of lost economic opportunity. That highway passes from I-405 through Renton, Kent and Auburn – only to get guillotined at Puyallup. A mere six miles separate it from the Port of Tacoma and the I-5 corridor.
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