TK
Funding for expanding light rail throughout Puget Sound has, finally, passed the state senate. But it's not clear there's enough funding, or whether major concessions made to Republicans were worth it. WA.GOV

The politics of state legislatures are a bitch to even think about. Dip your toe in and you get swallowed by the minutiae of partisan infighting over parliamentary rules and who's a part of what hastily cobbled-together coalition—all of which is going on with the wrangling over a long-delayed multibillion-dollar Washington transportation package.

BLEGH. But to save you the headache, and because this is really important, here's the CliffNotes version of what happened in the senate on Monday.

  • With some political maneuvering and the intervention of the lieutenant governor, Democrats got rid of the two-thirds tax increase rule that senate Republicans had pushed through.
  • Democrats brought the transportation package to the floor for a vote.
  • Republicans forced the package to include a so-called "poison pill" that prevents Democratic governor Jay Inslee from enacting one of his key promises on climate change—raising carbon efficiency fuel standards. If he does, the package's mass transit investments get wiped out and go into roads instead. Fucking evil shit.
  • The senate passed the transportation package 27-22. The $15 billion package includes a gas tax increase of 11.7 cents over the next three years.

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Democrats are disunited on the way forward—16 of them voted no. Here's how different wings of the party reacted to the vote:

  • Governor Jay Inslee: "I've been pushing for a transportation investment package since my first day in office." He said the vote represents "solid progress, and it begins the next round of negotiations."
  • Central District/Rainier Valley senator Pramila Jayapal: "I could not in good conscience vote for a proposal that relies on working families for funding and lets the state’s largest polluters off the hook." She says it's unacceptable that the package "diverts almost $1 billion from the general fund that could be used for other priorities like education."
  • Lake Stevens senator Steve Hobbs: "Even though there are issues we all have, remember, this is a process." Hobbs was the lead Democratic negotiator on the package in the senate, according to Crosscut, and he's hopeful the "poison pill" can be excised from the package when it goes over to the house.
  • King County executive Dow Constantine: "I am pleased the senate bill includes authority to expand light rail in the Central Puget Sound region. It remains critical that the legislature provide Sound Transit the full funding authority it has requested. The current legislation caps funding at a level that could jeopardize the ability to connect major population centers with light rail."

This feels like big news that we should be pleased about, but at the end of the day, I'm not convinced we're much further along than we were in January, when I last wrote about this issue: "We're probably still fucked, but who knows, maybe!"

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