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State House unveils 'no new taxes' transportation budget
Budget stabilizes funding for key agencies and projects for the next two years but shows future revenue shortfalls.
The House Transportation Committee released its proposed transportation budget for the 2013-2015 biennium on Thursday morning.
The budget, introduced by Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), allocates about $8.4 billion in state, federal and miscellaneous dollars to capital projects and operating programs. These funds will use existing revenue to support ongoing transportation projects and stabilize funding for state agencies.
The budget contains millions in cost-savings that both Democrats and Republicans implemented jointly. Efficiencies include the elimination of less-utilized ferry runs, a 5-percent reduction in toll operations, and staffing reductions in the Department of Licensing and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
“This has been a bi-partisan effort to drive greater accountability and efficiency into our transportation system while fully funding our obligations for the next two years,” said Clibborn. “We may have differences of opinion on individual projects but it has been a pleasure to come together to find common ground.”
“I have been very pleased with Chair Clibborn’s willingness to listen to ideas from our side of the aisle,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama), ranking member on the committee. “Republicans on the committee identified proposals to better streamline projects and hold WSDOT accountable and a number of our ideas have been incorporated. We will continue to work to improve this budget, but a no new taxes budget is the right approach.”
The budget is about $1.4 billion less than the previous biennium, which is largely due to declining gas tax revenues. With the state is nearing completion of the projects funded by the Nickel and TPA transportation packages of 2003 and 2005, no new transportation projects were funded in the House proposed budget.
Of the $8.4 billion budget, $4.9 billion is provided for existing capital projects, and $3.5 billion for operating programs. It maintains current construction on major highway projects and funds the completion of two new ferries currently under construction, but has no money for high priority mobility projects supported by business, labor, local governments and environmentalists earlier this year.
“We are moving forward with a budget that will keep current promises, but the next budget will look much grimmer if we don’t take action,” said Rep. Marko Liias (D-Mukilteo), vice chair of the committee “This is a band-aid for our transportation system, not a long-term solution for moving people and goods around our state.”
Recently, Governor Inslee highlighted a long-term transportation investment as a top priority for this year and the Washington Roundtable, a public policy organization comprised of the state’s senior business executives, highlighted more than $3 billion in near-term maintenance, operations and preservation needs statewide.
“The health of our economy is directly linked to our transportation system,” said Clibborn. “We face tough decisions in the upcoming weeks but I’m optimistic that we can come up with a bi-partisan solution that will meet our long-term needs.”
The budget bill, House Bill 1864, will be heard today, April 5th in the House Transportation Committee.
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Detailed budget documents from LEAP are available here:
2013-2015 biennial budget: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2013/ht1315p.asp
2013 supplemental budget: http://leap.leg.wa.gov/leap/budget/detail/2013/ht2013p.asp