Monday, April 23, 2007

Legislative Wrap-Up (2007 Session)

Submitted by Paul Ellis

The Washington State Legislature's 2007 Session is over, and the dust is just beginning to settle. Today we'll attempt to survey the aftermath with assistance from Bob Gee, contract lobbyist for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, and Mike Shaw, a lobbyist for Pierce County government.

The transportation budget adopted by state lawmakers keeps all Pierce County projects on schedule, despite the $2 billion increase in estimated costs over 2006. It increases funding for the SR-520 bridge and restores projects slated for delay to their original schedules. One such project in Pierce County--the SR-162/Puyallup River Bridge replacement--was scheduled for delay as the Session began but ultimately ended up accelerated by two years.

Senator Ed Murray’s regional governance bill (SB5803), which RAMP opposed, stalled in the Senate but can be resurrected next Session. Passage of that bill this year would have forced a new vote on funding for major projects. Instead, legislators gave the nod to HB1396, which authorized an integrated roads and transit package, allowing the region's voters to approve the Sound Transit and Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) packages with just one vote. RAMP supported this approach.

SB5207, introduced and advocated by Senate Transportation Chair Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, would have imposed a new tax on freight containers coming through Washington's ports--a measure RAMP opposed. Thanks in large part to the efforts of the Chamber in concert with the Port of Tacoma and other stakeholders, the amended bill sent to the Governor still mentions the container tax but omits any specific funding and the previous intent language. The bill now creates a Freight Congestion Relief Account and directs the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) to study funding mechanisms for freight infrastructure improvements, with a report due back to the Legislature by the start of the 2008 Session. One of the carrots dangling in the anticipated results of the study will be $188 million to extend 167 to the Port of Tacoma.

Paul Ellis is lead staff for RAMP; an employee of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Ellis led the Pierce County Transportation Advisory Committee (PCTAC), the community's largest transportation planning effort.

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