Virtual Conversation | Recapping the 2021 Session: Legislative Republicans, May 18, 2021 Register

OFM sends letter to Hobbs outlining “areas of concern” in transportation package

David Schumacher, Director of the Office of Financial Management (OFM), sent a letter to Sen. Steve Hobbs (D – Lake Stevens) indicating which provisions in his Forward Washington transportation revenue package OFM would support in a revenue package and which provisions are “areas of concern.”

Schumacher wrote that OFM supports increasing the gas tax, identifying cap and invest revenues to support transportation, and increasing certain fees and the rental car tax. They also want to see funding for the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, for the removal fish passage barriers, to replace aging ferry vessels with new hybrid-electric vessels, and to support grid electrification grants at the Department of Commerce.

In addition to those points of consensus, OFM has qualms about the package.

The proposal also includes areas of concern, such as the transfer of sales tax revenues from electric and hybrid vehicles to the transportation budget, underfunding of the preservation and maintenance needs over the next 16 years, reliance on an assumption of unidentified future federal funds to support the fish passage barrier removal program, lack of significant investments in safety projects and programs as well as climate friendly transportation options, and a general concern of how the work in the Forward Washington package will align both with the delivery of and funding for the ongoing Connecting Washington program.

Schumacher wrote that there are also “policy concerns” with the 1% increase in the sales tax on automobile parts and accessories, the special transportation benefit assessment on certain property, and the pre-trip fee on prearranged food delivery trips.”

In addition to “policy concerns”, other legislators have said there are “political questions” that need to be answered about the package before these session’s marque environmental bills, such as the carbon fuel standard and cap-and-invest, can pass.

We really would like to see a transportation package passed, but it feels less likely that will happen this session,” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D – Seattle). “I would prefer these things to stand on their own merits and not be linked. But if they’re going to be linked, are we sure that is going to make it more likely that a transportation package passes, or does that just create more excuses for certain industries or certain legislators to oppose a future transportation package? I think those are political questions we need to revolve before passing a clean fuel standard into law.” 

On Friday, the link between the passage of a transportation package and the cap-and-invest bill was severed via a striker amendment. The amendment directs revenue into an account for projects that reduce carbon emissions in transportation sector.

In his letter, Schumacher wrote that Gov. Inslee supports moving forward to pass a transportation package this session.


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