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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Another special session has been requested by Gov. Inslee, and the Legislature will convene on Thursday, Nov. 7. The governor is requesting the Legislature pass legislation that would ensure Boeing building the 777X in Washington. During his press conference earlier this week, he outlined his agenda. It includes:

  • A $10 billion transportation tax revenue package – which would likely include a gas tax of up to 10.5 cents a gallon;
  • Extension of all commercial airplane tax incentives for the aerospace industry, namely Boeing until 2040, and expansion of the current sales and use tax exemption on construction of buildings to manufacture “super efficient airplanes” to include all commercial airplanes and suppliers of wings and fuselages;
  • Education and workforce development investments to boost enrollments in aerospace fields at community and technical colleges;
  • Streamlined permitting actions that would speed up development and expansion of facilities at-large manufacturing sites around the state; and
  • Developing water quality goals to address the “fish consumption” rules and regulations being considered.

Some of his agenda certainly has merit. In fact, our House Republican Caucus has been pushing streamlined permitting for many years for all employers not just “large” manufacturers. We have been a leader in pushing investment in education and workforce development as well as working with stakeholders and legislators to address the fish consumption issue. However, I am extremely concerned about the transparency of this process. We have not seen the details of the legislation yet, and it took the Legislature 153 days to reach agreement on a budget and critical issues earlier this year. Now the expectation is to push at least some of the governor’s agenda in a few days’ time.

Transportation tax revenue survey

During the governor’s press conference earlier this week, he mentioned that a transportation tax revenue package was not necessarily a requirement to keep Boeing. Currently, the transportation committees in either caucus are not scheduled to meet. However, I am still very interested in your input on this issue. Please consider taking this short transportation survey and forward to anyone you feel would be interested in taking the survey. We expect the transportation debate to come again soon – whether this week, in two weeks or in the regular 2014 session. I want to give you the opportunity to share your comments and concerns so I have heard from as many constituents as possible on transportation.

The governor was asked about money for the Columbia River Crossing in the transportation tax revenue package. He indicated there were no monies dedicated for the CRC.

If the tax revenue plan comes up for debate, we need to make sure the discussion begins with reforms. It is essential we see some accountability and responsible use of gas tax dollars in our transportation system before taxpayers are asked to pay more.

The reforms need to be first in the transportation debate and not an afterthought. If reforms don’t happen first, those of us in Olympia are all too familiar with what will happen – they will get ignored. These are not just feel-good proposed reforms to be used as negotiating tools. They are important to restore the public’s trust after many botched transportation construction projects:

  • SR 520 pontoon design failure – $84 million and counting (initially $71 million);
  • SR 520 tolling delay — $40 million in forgone tolls and $12 million not collected in legal damages for the breach of the contract;
  • Columbia River Crossing design — $172 as of March 2013;
  • Three years ago, WSDOT built a ramp in the wrong place at the I-5 and SR 16 interchange in Tacoma and had to tear it down — cost to taxpayers $900,000; and
  • The history of the Chetzemoka Ferry — went into service three months late (November 2010) and $15 million over the estimated cost of construction. One of the smallest ferries in the state’s fleet, yet pound for pound it’s the most expensive ferry ever built anywhere at $80.1 million. Ferry engineers who work on board the vessels have been vocal about the boat’s list, fuel consumption and vibration problems. It has been out of service a number of times for repairs related to these issues.

Here is a brief summary of transportation reforms we would like to see implemented to ensure our transportation dollars are spent efficiently and effectively:

  • Require the Washington State Department of Transportation to report costly errors to the Legislature and put forward solutions to avoid making the same mistake twice;
  • Return sales tax from transportation construction to the transportation budget;
  • Implement the state auditor’s recommendations to reform the Ferry Capital Program;
  • Open a dialogue about prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements;
  • Streamline environmental permitting;
  • Add congestion relief to the state’s required list of transportation priorities;
  • Use of Public-Private Partnerships; and
  • Reform the state’s regional transit authority boards.

More on the special session…

I believe many legislators were a little surprised by the governor calling us back to Olympia this week rather than in two weeks when we will be in Olympia for Committee Assembly Days. And while I understand the governor’s urgency and concern when other states are recruiting our employers, I believe we have had proposals on the table in the past that would make our state a competitive place to do business for all employers.

That said, if this special session ends up making our state’s business climate more favorable for years to come, it would be a significant bipartisan accomplishment. But we must keep in mind, when you push major legislation through the legislative process quickly, you run the risk of making errors and not addressing issues in a comprehensive way. We need to do this right and in a manner that also allows the public the opportunity to be involved.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Again, I hope you will fill out the survey and share your comments and concerns. Your feedback is important to me.

Sincerely,


Paul Harris

State Representative Paul Harris, 17th Legislative District
RepresentativePaulHarris.com
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
paul.harris@leg.wa.gov
(360) 786-7976 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000