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Labor-business-environmental coalition sends letters to Inslee and Legislature asking for ‘down payment’ on $50 billion in transportation needs

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:59 am |
January 28, 2013 6:26 pm

The loose coalition of business, labor and environmental groups trying to develop a unified approach to passing a transportation tax package in the Legislature this year has sent formal letters to Gov. Jay Inslee and legislative leaders asking for action. The letters went out today and are signed by several of the groups cited in our Sunday story – linked here.

The letters – copies of which are linked here for those going to Inslee and House Speaker Frank Chopp - ask for a package that makes “a significant down payment on the $50 billion need identified by the Connecting Washington Task Force.”

The request does not identify a dollar goal but Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council says his group hopes for a package in the vicinity of $20 billion, far more than the $5 billion-and-up that House Transportation Committee chair Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, is crafting. Speaker Chopp has indicated his priority this year is not transportation but the operating budget.

Those signing on include leaders of the Labor Council, the Washington Roundtable (representing Northwest corporate executives), Transportation Choices, Washington Conservation Voters and the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council.

My earlier story apparently overstated the groups involved in recent talks – Associated General Contractors of Washington are not involved, for instance. The Association of Washington Business was offered a chance to sign but had not by the time the Jan. 22 letter was prepared for sending.

The Association of Washington Business was offered a chance to sign but had not done so by the time the Jan. 22 letter was prepared for sending, according to the Labor Council. AWB president Don Brunell said today in an email that AWB expected to be a signatory on it. He also said there are many efforts ongoing on transportation and that he expects AWB to “be part of the future meetings” of the coalition.

Brunell said AWB had wanted “one minor adjustment to the letter … to increase the emphasis on bridge strengthening.” But that was just a small difference in emphasis, he said.

The AGC’s spokesman, Jerry VanderWood, said his organization was not invited into the coalition but that it is talking to transportation leaders in the Legislature and is interested in getting a package passed. VanderWood said his group would be satisfied with a tax package worth $7 billion over 10 years.

Another coalition of transit groups has also announced its support for $400 million over 10 years to support public transit programs, as well as local options. Clibborn has said she is looking at weight fees on commercial vehicles and a motor vehicle excise tax of up to 0.7 percent to provide flexible funds for state ferries and transit programs. She also is eyeing a possible increase in the hazardous materials tax to pay for storm water projects sought by environmentalists.

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