As session continues to plow forward things have been busy, but a reprieve is right around the corner. Last Friday, March 1, brought with it the first big session calendar milestone: cutoff. As of Friday, bills that did not make it out of their fiscal committees of origin are now considered dead.
Technically, some bills are designated as NTIB or “necessary to implement the budget” and follow no deadline (think: transportation funding bills), but for the most part, if they did not make the cutoff Friday, they are one less thing to worry about. And, quite a few bills didn’t make the deadline. For a full tracking list see here.
Before I talk about what to expect this week, I’d like to touch on Senator Hobbs’ transportation funding package: Forward Washington.
A public hearing was held on the transportation package bills last Thursday, February 28. A total of 54 people signed-in to testify, including WSAC Executive Director Eric Johnson, WSAC Board Chair and Lincoln County Commissioner Scott Hutsell, Skagit County Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt, and Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young. All four provided compelling testimony that expressed support for the package, but concern over the lack of funding distributed to counties.
As I’ve noted in previous articles, the $17 billion package goes a long way to fund critical road projects statewide. But it also falls short in providing counties the revenues needed to make up for decades of losses in revenue.
The Forward Washington bills appropriates approximately $16.6 billion of the total $17 billion raised, and drive the bulk of the revenue toward statewide projects. Examples include:
- A total of $11.6 billion to WSDOT Program I for Highway Improvements. A full list can be found here.
- $3.5 billion of the $11.6 billion is carved out for fish passage barrier removals, taking a “watershed” approach. It is unclear at this time how much of the $3.5 billion will be earmarked for local governments.
- $1 billion to WSDOT Program P for Highway Preservation
- $1.6 billion to the WA State Ferries Program for construction, preservation, and maintenance, and ferry electrification.
- $150 million to the PCC rail project.
Total: 14.35 billion
Of the roughly $2 billion left, the package funds:
- $217 million to WSDOT Local Programs, Program Z; projects include:
- Tacoma Puyallup River Bridge: $110 million
- 224th Phase 2: $2 million
- Highland Park Way SW & SW Holden St Roundabout: $2.5 million
- Wollochet Dr NW Widening: $18 million
- Canyon Road Regional Connection Project: $50 million
- Moclips Highway/SR 109 to US 101 Chip Seal: $1.2 million
- Evacuation Street Relocation: $1.3 million
- Kla Ook Wa Drive Extension $700 million
- US 101/N Valley Dr to N Reservation Rd Sidewalk: $300,000
- Nespelem School Loop Rd & Columbia River Rd Improvements: $7.3 million
- Gifford Ferry Rd Chip Seal: $2 million
- Inchelium Vicinity Road Improvements: $2.5 million
- Kartar Valley Road Improvements: $5 million
- Browning Street/Pioneer Way Reconstruction: $8 million
- Puyallup to Tacoma Bike/Pedestrian Safety Link: $500,000
- Sprague Avenue Phase II Improvements $5 million
It would be helpful to know how many of these projects, if any, are priorities in your county.
- Port Districts Grants $100 million
- Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB: $50 million
- Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) $90 million
- County Road Administration Board (CRAB) $70 million
- Cities and Counties Direct Distribution (gas tax) $375 million
- Special Needs Transit Grants $200 million
- Rural Mobility Grant Program $110 million
- Bus & Bus Facility Grant Program $300 million
- Vanpool Grant Program $30 million
- Transit Coordination Grants $5 million
- Bike/Ped Grant Program $165 million
- Safe Routes to School Grant Program $60 million
- Complete Streets Grant Program $90 million
- Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) $45 million
- Alternative Fuel Credits $50 million
Of these programs, it would be helpful to know which ones will directly benefit your County and whether they are a priority. Clearly, CRAB is critical for county preservation and maintenance, but what other programs do you rely on?
The Transportation Package has a long way to go before coming law, and its author and Chair of the Committee, Senator Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), acknowledged it’s a “living document” that will undergo many iterations. Now is our opportunity to weigh in and provide constructive feedback. Please send me any feedback that makes a compelling case as to why counties deserve more in this package as soon as possible.
As mentioned earlier in the post, week 8 brings with it a bit of a reprieve as Legislators will spend the bulk of their time debating bills on the House and Senate Floors. This means no public hearings or work sessions. It’s the time to attempt to get bills passed from one chamber to the other, so we can start the process all over again. A few bills we’d like to see get votes, include:
HB 1427, county electrical illumination equipment. The WSACE electrical illumination equipment was voted out of the House Transportation Committee and is now sitting in the Rules Committee awaiting floor action. After push-back from the electricians’ industry, the bill was amended in committee. Instead of completely eliminating the statute, we settled on language that would raise the dollar threshold from $10,000 to $40,000. The amended bill received unanimous approval and is moving along nicely.
HB 1359, concerns local government procurement. HB 1359 would allow counties to procure certain public works with a unit-priced contract and would increase the small works roster from $300,000 to $500,000. This bill was voted out of the House Local Government Committee and is in the Rules Committee awaiting floor action.
HB 1951, concerns a CRAB emergency loan program. HB 1951 would set up an emergency loan program within CRAB for counties to access when damage to county road infrastructure occurs during times of emergency and disaster. The program would be established as a revolving loan fund that would be self-supporting. Loans would be available to counties after April 1, 2019, with populations less than 800,000. HB 1951 is in the House Rules Committee awaiting floor action.
Bills that appear dead
HB 1712, concerning vehicle weight loads carrying farm products. HB 1712 would have authorized vehicles carrying farm products to exceed total gross weight limits by 2,000 pounds. WSACE was opposed to this bill, and it failed to advance.
It’s companion, SB 5883, was amended and did advance. The newly amended version would allow vehicles carrying farm products to exceed weight limits by 5%, instead of 2,000 pounds. It would strictly prohibit these loads on bridges where the vehicle exceeds its weight threshold.
HB 1897, concerning vehicle weight loads. HB 1897 would have allowed WSDOT to implement a pilot program where triple-trailers would be allowed on major state-routes. WSACE expressed concern with the bill, along with a number of others. It appears the House Transportation Committee listened as they chose not to move the bill forward. It’s companion, SB 5830, however, did move on and is now in the Senate Rules Committee awaiting floor action.
SB 5255, concerning rural road usage charges. SB 5255 would have prohibited rural counties from levying a road usage charge. WSACE was opposed to the bill. The bill did not receive a committee vote and appears dead for the session.
And last, but not least, our first of two spring roundtables is Thursday, March 7, in Ritzville. If you have yet to RSVP, it is not too late – please email Jason Bergquist at firstname.lastname@example.org
Where: Adams County Public Works Building — 210 W Alder Ave, Ritzville, WA 99169
When: Thursday, March 7, 2019: 9am-noon
Welcome & Introductions
WSACE election of officers
Standing Committee reports
STP obligation targets
SWOT/strategic planning discussion
Roundtable – opportunity to share what is happening in your county