Thursday, January 10, 2008

RAMP Adopts 2008 Legislative Priorities

Yesterday, RAMP's participants adopted their agenda for action on transportation issues in the 2008 Legislature, but the most significant activity this year may very well be outside that arena.

Following an exchange with King County leaders over their proposal to overhaul regional transportation governance, RAMP participants appeared more committed than ever to trying to establish a transportation benefit district (TBD), either alone or with another county, to pay for major highway projects. The Legislative package finalized yesterday states categorically that "RAMP believes that a Transportation Benefit District is the most viable vehicle for advancing towards the next voter-approved funding package" because it's a more flexible alternative to a new Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) and one which may not be saddled with the baggage of failure last November.

Despite some initial support from Governor Christine Gregoire and key state lawmakers, most handicappers for the upcoming Session see governance as a non-starter--there's too much opposition from Pierce County and, well, pretty much every place outside of King County, and this Session is too short to overcome that opposition. RAMP seeks some minor changes to the current TBD legislation--granting districts authority allotted to the Regional Transportation Investment District, as well as removing the ten-year limitation on voter-approved tax collections--but even that may be too much to expect this year.

The real action in 2008 is likely to be formation of a TBD either for Pierce County alone or for Pierce in tandem with one or more neighboring counties. Representatives from Thurston County are scheduled on RAMP's February agenda to make the pitch for alignment with their jurisdiction.