The chief proponent of a major Washington state transportation package said Friday night the bill was on life support and that it was extremely unlikely to pass this year.
Democratic Rep. Judy Clibborn said Friday night that she was sorry and disappointed the $10 billion package did not have the support needed to get through the Legislature. Clibborn had been working on the issue for some two years but said it became clear over the past week that the Senate was not willing to work with her plan, which would have included a 10 1/2-cent increase in the gas tax.
“It’s time to let go,” said Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “I think I did everything I could.”
After the governor’s office told her they were still working on the package, Clibborn later backed off that comment, saying she considered the measure on life support but would continue working on it.
Business leaders had supported the package, saying it was necessary because the state’s highways and bridges can’t wait any longer for improvements. Jocelyn McCabe, a spokeswoman for the Association of Washington Business, said the group wasn’t ready to close the door on the bill and was continuing to work with lawmakers in both chambers.
Gov. Jay Inslee had hoped the package would pass through the Senate by Sunday night.
Senate Transportation Committee co-Chair Curtis King, R-Yakima, said his caucus has no appetite for the transportation package and he didn’t anticipate a vote this weekend, regardless of the governor’s statement.
“He can hope all he wants,” King said. “There’s lots of reasons why we shouldn’t go this way.”
Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said the House and Senate were just too far apart on what a package should look like. Everyone wants to make improvements in that the transportation system, but lawmakers couldn’t find a joint way forward, he said.
A version of the proposal approved by the state House included $3.2 billion for several state road projects, including State Route 167, Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and a replacement bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon.
That Columbia River bridge was widely opposed by Republicans in the state Senate, who said the current proposal for the bridge was too low and should not include light rail transit. They also expressed concern about the costs.
Supporters, meanwhile, said now was the time to approve that bridge. Oregon and Washington are each responsible for $450 million of the replacement span, with the federal government and toll revenue paying the rest. Oregon has already approved its portion, and officials have expressed concern that federal money provided for the project will fall through if Washington state fails to act.
Clibborn said lawmakers could try and return to the issue next year, but she suspect it may have to wait until 2015. In the meantime, she said motorists concerned about traffic and road conditions may want to put pressure on lawmakers and ask for change.