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Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Washington State House passes amended transportation revenue bill; Senate concurs

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.

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