House rejects key ST3 amendments, passes 2017-19 transportation budget

The 2017-19 transportation budget approved by the House last night is mostly good, according to Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who serves as the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee. Orcutt says the shortfalls of the $8.56 billion budget include, solutions to Sound Transit 3 (ST3) that don’t go far enough, a lack of action on several amendments, and some areas where taxpayer protections should be strengthened.

According to Orcutt, some positive aspects of the budget include the following appropriations:

  • Retention and recruitment of highly qualified state troopers.
  • Maintenance and repairs to roads all across Washington.
  • Ongoing ferry operations.
  • Study of and repairs to structurally deficient bridges.
  • Removal of fish passage barriers.
  • Continued implementation of Connecting Washington projects.

While the positives of the budget outweigh the negatives for most Washingtonians, Orcutt still has some concerns.

Thirty-seven amendments to the budget were proposed last night. Included were three that addressed cost overruns associated with the delayed Alaskan Way Viaduct project, and six that addressed skyrocketing car tabs, sales and property taxes as a result of ST3.

Two Orcutt amendments that would have addressed the Alaskan Way Viaduct cost overruns were both rejected on party-line votes. One would have removed the $15 million cost overrun for transit mitigation. The second amendment would have tied the $60 million overrun appropriation to adoption of House Bill 2193, which requires the direct beneficiaries of the project, rather than all Washington taxpayers, to pay for cost overruns.

“The cost of this project has gone beyond the limit set in the authorizing legislation in 2009,” said Orcutt. “If Seattle is found responsible for these additional costs, the amendments I offered would have given the city, and the direct beneficiaries of the project, the tools they need to uphold their end of the bargain.”

The five amendments offered related to ST3 would have lowered car tabs and allowed cities and counties to opt-out of ST3. None of the amendments were adopted and some amendments were scoped, meaning the speaker refused to allow consideration and a vote.

House Bill 2201 was offered by the majority party and adopted immediately before debate on the transportation budget began. It would lower car tab fees by creating a Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) credit to make up the difference between the vehicle valuation schedule under current law and the one Sound Transit uses from the 1990s. Orcutt believes the bill does not go far enough.

“The failure to adopt the ST3 amendments is disappointing,” said Orcutt.  “The majority party believes they offered a solution last night, but by their inaction on key components of ST3 they failed to solve a problem that is impacting over one million families in the Puget Sound area.”

In addition to these failed amendments, Orcutt has concerns about a pilot program that would study a pay-per-mile tax in lieu of a gas tax. He also has concerns about a $350,000 appropriation to revive the Columbia River Crossing. With no plan for congestion relief and no commitment from Oregon to solve the problem, Orcutt says we’re left with more cost and no solution.

“Ultimately, this is not the final budget,” said Orcutt. “The Senate has a proposal of their own. We have already begun negotiating the final version where I hope to give Washington families and taxpayers the value and protections they deserve.”

The 2017 legislative session is scheduled to end April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications