Dozens testify on Senate transportation plan

By | March 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

More than 90 people signed up to testify before a state House committee Thursday on a plan approved by the Senate to raise the state’s gas tax to fund transportation.

Aurora Ave N SB congestionUnder the 16-year, $15 billion plan, a nearly 12-cent gas tax hike would help fund megaprojects – including the North-South freeway in Spokane and State Route 520 Bridge – throughout the state. The package also puts money toward 58 regional projects, including transit, bike paths and pedestrian walkways.

If lawmakers approve the package, it would be the first major transportation funding measure passed in a decade. “We have bridges collapsing, roads are crowded,” Lake Stevens Sen. Steve Hobbs said. “This is the time to pass a transportation package because we need it.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who used to chair the House transportation committee, pointed to a recent traffic jam in his request for more funding for Highway 99. A semi-truck carrying salmon overturned Tuesday evening, blocking traffic on the highway for nearly nine hours. “If one accident happens, like with the salmon truck, the entire region clogs up,” he said.

The gas tax hike would happen in three phases. First, a 5-cent increase in July, then 4.2 cents in 2016 and 2.5 cents in 2017.  Washington has the seventh highest gas tax in the nation. People in the state already pay 55.9 cents per gallon in taxes – 37.5 cents to the state, plus 18.4 cents federal tax.

Washington Treasurer James McIntire told committee members the gas tax was overused and the plan borrows too much. He called for more tolling, especially on I-90, to fund transportation projects.

The transportation package comes with several conditions, including one that would take money away from transit and bike paths and instead put it toward roads if the state adopts a low carbon fuel standard.

Some House Democrats call the provision a “poison pill” and say it could keep the package from passing through the chamber. Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a study of low carbon fuel standards as part of a carbon reduction proposal.

Charles Knutson from the governor’s office asked members to drop those conditions attached to the transportation proposal. “The governor would like to see a clean bill come of this committee,” he said. “The cleaner the bill, the easier it will be to reach a final agreement.”

House Bill 5987 passed 27 to 22 in the Senate. The package has not been scheduled for a vote in the House Transportation committee.

Toddlers race around Capitol for early learning investments

By | March 26, 2015 | 0 Comments


Dozens of preschool students raced through the Capitol Thursday as part of a push to ask lawmakers to invest more in early learning.

“We’re here to remind legislators to start and finish strong for our littlest learners,” organizer Lauren Hipp said. “Early learning really set our kids up for success, not only in school, but in life in general.”

Before the toddlers took off running in their sweatbands and race bibs — all No. 1 — they listened while Gov. Jay Inslee, budget writers Sen. Andy Hill and Rep. Ross Hunter and other lawmakers talked about ways to boost spending.

“I don’t think they were that interested in what they had to say, but hopefully they’ll be interested in what the lawmakers do for these kids,” executive director of the state’s Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance (ECEAP) programs Joel Ryan said.

Mostly, they focused on  House Bill 1491, the so-called Early Start Act. Childcare and preschool providers who accept state subsidies for low-income families would be required to participate in the Early Achievers Program.

Right now, the program is free, but voluntary. It provides training to childcare facilities and state- and federally-funded preschool program, such as Head Start, ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care.

By requiring participation, lawmakers hope to improve kindergarten readiness for low-income students. “If we get our way,” Inslee told the runners. “We’re going to have more kids who are ready for kindergarten, more kids who do well in first grade, more kids who go into STEM fields, more kids who graduate.”

The measure passed 67-31 in the state House and is under consideration in the Senate. It was voted out of a committee in the chamber Wednesday. Prime sponsor Rep. Ruth Kagi said during the event she expects a hearing in Senate Ways and Means on Friday.

Gov. Inslee calls for Senate vote on Reproductive Parity Act

By | February 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Gov. Jay Inslee called for a vote on an abortion insurance bill in the state Senate in front of a group of hundreds of pro-choice supporters at a rally on Monday.

The bill, also known as the Reproductive Parity Act, would require all insurance carriers that provide maternal care to also provide coverage for abortions.

“Our challenge is to make sure that every woman in the state of Washington has access to a health care insurance policy that respects and pays for her right of choice,” Inslee told the crowd gathered on the steps of the Capitol. “The way to do that is to pass the Reproductive Parity Act this year.”

Elaine Rose, CEO of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said passing the Reproductive Parity Act is the number one item on the organization’s agenda.

“Family planning funding is also crucial — as the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, there will still be a need for funding during the period of transition,” Rose said.

Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom also spoke at the rally.

“I’ve always been fiscally conservative,” said Tom. “And if you look at family planning, in terms of return on investment, it’s one of the best things we do in state government. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally smart thing to do.”

The bill is expected to get a vote in the Democratic-controlled House. Senate Democrats recently urged the GOP-controlled Senate Majority Coalition to schedule a public hearing on the bill, which has been referred to the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee and Health Care Committee.

TVW has more photos on our Facebook page from the event.