Interstate 90, seen from an Eastgate overpass

It took until the wee hours of the morn­ing, but the Leg­is­la­ture has final­ly reached agree­ment on the rev­enue com­po­nent for a new trans­porta­tion package.

By a vote of fifty-four to forty-four, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed to send an amend­ed ver­sion of Sec­ond Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5987 (2ESSB 5987) over to the Sen­ate. The major change made by the House was to elim­i­nate the so-called ran­som, or trib­ute, that the Sen­ate want­ed Sound Tran­sit to pay to the state trea­sury in return for get­ting its new rev­enue author­i­ty, which it can use to place a Sound Tran­sit 3 mea­sure on the bal­lot next year.

The ran­som would have con­sist­ed of a sales and use tax levied on con­struc­tion projects, capped at just over $500 mil­lion (which is a lot of money).

The new lan­guage instead allows Puget Sound to keep these funds, and requires that the region spend it on edu­ca­tion — which to us seems appropriate.

Here is the rel­e­vant final lan­guage from Sec­tion 422 (PDF):

(1) Begin­ning Jan­u­ary 1, 2017, and until the require­ments in sub­sec­tion of this sec­tion are met, a region­al tran­sit author­i­ty must pay to the depart­ment of rev­enue, for deposit into the Puget Sound tax­pay­er account­abil­i­ty account, a sales and use tax off­set fee.

(2) A sales and use tax off­set fee is three and twen­ty-five one-hun­dredths per­cent of the total pay­ments made by the region­al tran­sit author­i­ty to con­struc­tion con­trac­tors on con­struc­tion con­tracts that are
(a) for new projects iden­ti­fied in the sys­tem plan fund­ed by any propo­si­tion approved by vot­ers after Jan­u­ary 1, 2015, and
(b) exclud­ed from the def­i­n­i­tion of retail sale under RCW 82.04.050(10)

Sec­tion 423 stip­u­lates how the mon­ey must be spent:

1) The Puget Sound tax­pay­er account­abil­i­ty account is cre­at­ed in the state trea­sury. Mon­eys in the account may be spent only after appro­pri­a­tion. Expen­di­tures from the account may only be used for dis­tri­b­u­tion to coun­ties where a por­tion of the coun­ty is with­in the bound­aries of a region­al tran­sit author­i­ty that includes a coun­ty with a pop­u­la­tion of one mil­lion five hun­dred thou­sand or more.

Coun­ties may use dis­tri­b­u­tions from the account only for edu­ca­tion­al ser­vices to improve edu­ca­tion­al out­comes in ear­ly learn­ing, K‑12, and high­er edu­ca­tion includ­ing, but not lim­it­ed to, for youths that are low-income, home­less, or in fos­ter care, or oth­er vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. Coun­ties receiv­ing dis­tri­b­u­tions under this sec­tion must track all expen­di­tures and uses of the funds.

To the great­est extent prac­ti­ca­ble, the expen­di­tures of the coun­ties must fol­low the require­ments of any trans­porta­tion sub­area equi­ty ele­ment used by the region­al tran­sit authority.

(2) Begin­ning Sep­tem­ber 1, 2017, and by the last day of Sep­tem­ber, Decem­ber, March, and June of each year there­after, the state trea­sur­er shall dis­trib­ute mon­eys deposit­ed in the Puget Sound tax­pay­er account­abil­i­ty account to coun­ties for which a por­tion of the coun­ty is with­in the bound­aries of a region­al tran­sit author­i­ty that includes a coun­ty with a pop­u­la­tion of one mil­lion five hun­dred thousand.

The trea­sur­er must make the dis­tri­b­u­tion to the coun­ties on the rel­a­tive basis of that tran­sit author­i­ty’s pop­u­la­tion that lives with­in the respec­tive counties.

We have State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jessyn Far­rell to thank for this amend­ment, which keeps this pot of mon­ey under local con­trol. No doubt King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine and his fel­low exec­u­tives Pat McCarthy and John Lovick from Pierce and Sno­homish Coun­ties are pleased with this development.

The roll call on final pas­sage was, as men­tioned, fifty-four to forty-four. Ten Repub­li­cans crossed over to help most of the Democ­rats pass the bill. Most Repub­li­cans vot­ed nay, and a few Democ­rats joined them.

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Apple­ton, Bergquist, Car­lyle, Clib­born, Cody, Far­rell, Fey, Good­man, Gregerson, Hud­gins, S. Hunt, Hunter, Hurst, Jink­ins, John­son, Kagi, Kir­by, Kochmar, Lyt­ton, McBride, Moeller, Mor­ris, Moscoso, Muri, Nealey, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Reyk­dal, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Rodne, Ryu, San­tos, Sawyer, Sells, Senn, Springer, Stam­baugh, Stan­ford, Stokes­bary, Sul­li­van, Takko, Tar­leton, Tharinger, Walkin­shaw, Walsh, Wilcox, Wylie, Zeiger, Mr. Speak­er [Chopp]

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Blake, Buys, Caldier, Chan­dler, Con­dot­ta, DeBolt, Dent, Dun­shee, Dye, Fitzgib­bon, Gre­go­ry, Grif­fey, Haler, Hansen, Har­grove, Harmsworth, Har­ris, Hawkins, Hayes, Holy, G. Hunt, Kil­duff, Klip­pert, Kretz, Kris­tiansen, MacEwen, Magen­danz, Man­weller, McCabe, McCaslin, Orcutt, Park­er, Pike, Schmick, Scott, Shea, Short, Smith, Tay­lor, Van De Wege, Van Wer­ven, Vick, Wil­son, Young

Democ­rats who vot­ed nay were:

  1. Bri­an Blake
  2. Car­ol Gregory
  3. Hans Dun­shee
  4. Joe Fitzgib­bon
  5. Drew Hansen
  6. Chris­tine Klduff
  7. Kevin Van De Wege

Repub­li­cans who vot­ed aye were:

  1. Norm John­son
  2. Lin­da Kochmar
  3. Dick Muri
  4. Ter­ry Nealey
  5. Jay Rodne
  6. Melanie Stam­baugh
  7. Drew Stokes­bary
  8. Mau­reen Walsh
  9. J.T. Wilcox
  10. Hans Zeiger

The House vote on final pas­sage took place well after 1 AM, after a floor debate that fea­tured over a dozen speak­ers. Repub­li­cans such as Ed Orcutt, Jesse Young, and Liz Pike rose to denounce the bill, while Democ­rats like Jessyn Far­rell, Judy Clib­born, and Dean Takko rose in strong sup­port of it.

The bill retains the poi­son pill pro­vi­sion insert­ed by Sen­ate Repub­li­cans that pre­vents Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee from using his exec­u­tive author­i­ty to set tougher pol­lu­tion stan­dards for vehi­cles, which caused our friend Joe Fitzgib­bon (D‑34th Dis­trict; West Seat­tle, Vashon Island, Burien) to case a no vote in protest.

After the House sent the amend­ed bill over to the Sen­ate, the Sen­ate decid­ed to con­cur in the amend­ments by a vote of thir­ty-sev­en to to sev­en, with five excused.

2ESSB 5987 now goes to Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee for his signature.

As it con­tains an emer­gency clause (Sec­tion 426), it will not be sub­ject to a ref­er­en­dum, much to Ed Orcut­t’s dis­plea­sure. (Orcutt had argued at length for send­ing the bill to vot­ers, but his amend­ment to do so was defeat­ed by the House.)

The House and Sen­ate were not able to com­plete work on the oth­er bills in the trans­porta­tion pack­age due to a bit­ter dis­agree­ment in the Sen­ate over what to do with Ini­tia­tive 1351 (last year’s WEA-spon­sored ini­tia­tive requir­ing small­er class sizes, which the Leg­is­la­ture has cho­sen not to ful­ly fund).

The dis­agree­ment over I‑1351 has brought the Sen­ate to a tem­po­rary halt, and the House has opt­ed to take a break in the mean­time. Law­mak­ers in the House were sent home around 3:30 AM this morn­ing after it became clear the Sen­ate was stuck.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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