Crosscut reported today on a press conference by Steve Mullin, the head of the Washington Roundtable urging the Legislature to pass a transportation package, and touting a Boston Consulting Group study that the package would generate a lot of economic activity in the next 30 years – far more than the cost of the projects.
The Washington Roundtable argued Tuesday that passing $7 billion worth of transportation improvements in the 2015 legislative session would create $42 billion worth of economic benefits to Washington in the next 30 years.
Report: Inaction on transportation is expensive for state, public
I totally agree.
The article then goes on to talk about the specifics of the package that the House passed in 2013, and the one discussed by the Senate but never passed. Both packages had deep flaws for the 48th district, and I would not have supported them on final passage unless the flaws had been fixed. The House showed it has the votes to pass an investment package (even if flawed) and the Senate never got their bill out of committee. I’ve written before on the flaws in the Senate package (here) and what I would need to have in a package to vote for it. In short:
- Fund the 520 bridge project completion. Absent a funding package this year we will have to reapply for federal permits and reconstruct the entire team. The costs of the project only increase with inflation.
- Have a “coverage ratio” that meets the expectations of the bond market. The gas tax is a declining resource as more and more people drive hybrid and electric cars, and bonding too much of it isn’t prudent. This is like the bank not giving you a mortgage if you are spending too high a percentage of your income on debt payments. You can interpret this concern as “be fiscally prudent.”
- Fund an adequate amount of ongoing maintenance for our existing roadways.
- Allow King County to make investments in its transit system with reasonable local taxes, not the proposal the county put before the voters.
The Senate package failed all four tests, and the House package failed #1. It is hard to construct a package that has enough money in it to build the projects the state needs without having a gas tax increase too high for many of the more rural members to support. My guess is that we will need to increase revenue in different ways than just the gas tax, perhaps gradually imposing tolls on all the major roadways in the “box” around Lake Washington. Revenue raised in this way would need to stay in King County, and the county would still need to get our share of new statewide revenue from the gas tax that needs to be part of a package.
I’m not an expert on all the items going into an investment package, but I do know that it’s hard to pull these things together. The packages done a decade ago were incredibly contentious, but also incredibly important to our economy. We need to finish the job.