NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 7th, 2014

State Senate Republicans set new date to finish negotiating with themselves on transportation plan they don’t have votes for

Top law­mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton’s dys­func­tion­al Sen­ate Repub­li­can Cau­cus said today they still plan to release their own revised statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age, despite blow­ing past anoth­er self-imposed dead­line to get it done.

Speak­ing with The Olympian’s Brad Shan­non a day after the new pro­pos­al was sup­posed to have been released, Major­i­ty Leader-in-Name-Only Rod­ney Tom said, “We’re going to look at it and tweak it. What we are try­ing to do is get this process kick start­ed and get back to the table.

“It’s hard to nego­ti­ate with your­self,” he added.

Tom’s com­ment cer­tain­ly speaks to the sor­ry state of affairs in the Leg­is­la­ture’s upper cham­ber, which he sin­gle­hand­ed­ly caused with his pow­er coup in late 2012. When you have to nego­ti­ate with your­self, you don’t know what you’re doing.

Ever since Tom and Tim Shel­don crossed over to for­mal­ly join Mark Schoesler, Andy Hill, Don Ben­ton, Pam Roach, and the Repub­li­can Cau­cus fol­low­ing the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, it’s been ama­teur hour in the Wash­ing­ton State Senate.

On no front has that been more clear­ly appar­ent than on transportation.

There is wide­spread agree­ment that Wash­ing­ton has many unmet trans­porta­tion needs, espe­cial­ly in the wake of the 2000 Leg­is­la­ture’s fool­ish rein­state­ment of Tim Eyman’s I‑695, which wiped out bil­lions in fund­ing for fer­ries, roads, and transit.

But Sen­ate Repub­li­cans haven’t been able to agree amongst them­selves on a pack­age. Last year, they were so con­sumed by inter­nal squab­bling that they weren’t even able to pro­duce a plan in com­mit­tee pri­or to the end of the sec­ond spe­cial ses­sion. Nor did they take up the pro­pos­al passed by the House of Representatives.

Instead, they declared they would hold a “lis­ten­ing tour” in the fall to find out what peo­ple want­ed in a trans­porta­tion pack­age. Before and dur­ing the tour, they spoke of an end-of-the-year spe­cial ses­sion to address the state’s trans­porta­tion needs.

But it did­n’t hap­pen, because when the time came, they did­n’t have their act togeth­er. The most they’ve been able to do since the tour is out­line what some of them want: a heav­i­ly roads-cen­tric pack­age that stu­pid­ly reduces fund­ing for our pub­lic schools. Democ­rats, nat­u­ral­ly, aren’t on board with that, and so noth­ing has hap­pened except for point­less nego­ti­a­tions behind closed doors.

Mean­while, the clock con­tin­ues to tick, and King Coun­ty lead­ers, fed up with the inac­tion in the state­house, are work­ing on a Plan B. They are mov­ing to ask vot­ers in April to raise rev­enue to pre­vent dra­con­ian cuts to Metro bus routes and give the belea­guered, heav­i­ly defund­ed coun­ty roads divi­sion a shot in the arm so it can address the coun­ty’s grow­ing main­te­nance backlog.

If any­one thought Dow Con­stan­ti­ne’s announce­ment last month would light a fire under Sen­ate Repub­li­cans, they were mistaken.

Weeks have gone by since Con­stan­tine announced that the coun­ty was pur­su­ing Plan B and Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have yet to even sched­ule a vote, which Democ­rats want to see hap­pen before they’ll resume nego­ti­a­tions. (Democ­rats don’t see the point of bar­gain­ing with a Sen­ate Repub­li­can Cau­cus that can’t agree with itself).

It’s telling that Rod­ney Tom and Mark Schoesler both “ques­tioned” the need for a vote when Shan­non talked to them. Evi­dent­ly they’re at least capa­ble of basic arith­metic. Since they can’t agree amongst them­selves, their only options are to admit that they are at log­ger­heads inter­nal­ly, or to go on stonewalling.

They have cho­sen the lat­ter. House Democ­rats sus­pect they will go on stonewalling right through the end of session.

Refer­ring to Cur­tis King, who is sup­posed to be the Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ point man on trans­porta­tion, House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Judy Clib­born observed, “He doesn’t want to say that they are not going to move any­thing, but they are not (mov­ing any­thing). Every week he’s moved it anoth­er week (for announc­ing a new pro­pos­al) and we’re sort of at the end.”

“I’m not sure they want to have some­thing,” she concluded.

Iron­i­cal­ly, Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ inep­ti­tude might ulti­mate­ly lead to bet­ter pub­lic pol­i­cy. If a roads-cen­tric statewide pack­age falls through this year and King Coun­ty vot­ers pass Plan B, pro-tran­sit advo­cates will be free to push for a more mul­ti­modal pack­age at the state lev­el with­out hav­ing to wor­ry about Metro’s fate.

All we have to do to defeat the Four Horse­men of the Bus­poca­lypse is to pass Propo­si­tion 1 to Move King Coun­ty Now. Then we’ll be in a posi­tion to craft a much smarter and more sen­si­ble statewide trans­porta­tion pack­age, freed from hav­ing our bus ser­vice as a pawn in Rod­ney Tom’s pow­er games.

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