Capitol Dispatch is a weekly political report focusing on the actions of our local representatives during the 2022 legislative session. It will run every Sunday during
A major new piece of politics landed in the state Legislature on Tuesday. Democratic Party leaders from both chambers introduced the Move Ahead Washington Bill, a 16-year, $16 billion transportation funding proposal.
Move Ahead Washington includes money for everything from highway and state road projects to expanding sidewalks, and hybrid electric ferries to removing fish passage barriers. What it doesn’t include are specific projects in Cowlitz County, or much of the rest of southwestern Washington.
“Nobody outside of the northern corridor of I-5 was really consulted on this,” Rep. Jim Walsh said.
No transportation projects are listed in the transportation proposal for Districts 18 and 20. District 19 has one project, a $240,000 allocation for the Discovery Trail Route at the Port of Ilwaco.
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By comparison, a single Safe Route to School project at University Place was to receive $1.62 million.
“In Southwest Washington, there is a great need for this type of infrastructure,” District 20 Representative Peter Abbarno said. “This transportation package relies too heavily on regressive fees and taxes and funnels money too far north to Puget Sound.”
Walsh and Sen. Jeff Wilson said they plan to petition and seek amendments to add local projects to the final list. A major exclusion is the Industrial Way/Oregon Way intersection, which continues to seek additional funding as the intersection overhaul goes through another round of design changes. Another possible beneficiary would be the highway-rail separation project at the Port of Grays Harbor.
The largest investment in all of transportation is the Columbia River I-5 Bridge, which would receive $1 billion over the next 16 years.
Wilson said funding for the transportation package made the district’s lack of projects particularly frustrating. The main source of funding is the carbon pricing program passed by the Legislative Assembly last year, which amounts to $5.4 billion.
“We are the carbon capture part of the state. That’s what our trees and our forests do on a regular basis,” Wilson said. “We should get more financial benefits for our district.”
The transportation package will also be partially funded through a series of increases in driving and transportation costs. The new car license plate fee will increase from $10 to $50, while the motorcycle plate fee will increase to $20. The plan also includes an out-of-state fuel tax that will largely affect residents of Oregon and Idaho and increased fees for temporary dealer licenses and enhanced driver’s licenses.
Range of gun bills
Two of Wilson’s bills made it through long Senate sessions this week.
The SB 5907 will increase the safety of tow truck drivers and firefighters by allowing them to use flashing blue lights at the scene of an accident, making them more visible to passing traffic. The bill passed unanimously on Friday. A sister bill by Rep. Ed Orcutt is awaiting House of Representatives approval.
Wilson and Orcutt introduced the bills after two tow truck drivers were killed while responding to crash scenes in Cowlitz County last year.
“It gives these men and women a chance to stay safe and stay alive as they work our busy roads,” Wilson said.
A second, smaller bill that passed Wednesday is SB 5856. The bill exempts museums and historical societies from the background check process when they receive, loan, sell or transfer a firearm.
Cowlitz County Historical Museum director Joseph Govednik first raised the issue of the gun transfer to Wilson and spoke in favor of the bill at a public hearing earlier this month. . Govednik said the museum had to decline a firearm donation by a community member because the universal background checks required by Initiative 594 could not be performed for nonprofit museums.