A determined Gov. Jay Inslee announced this morning that he will call a November special session to bring another transportation revenue package under consideration.
“In my inaugural address, I said no economic strategy would be complete without a transportation plan,” said Inslee.
“The need for action is increasingly urgent,” he later added. “Our state's transportation challenges aren't going away. Businesses east and west of the Cascades need to move goods quickly and efficiently.”
November's package, Inslee said, might not need to include the Columbia River Crossing, the southwest Washington bridge project that has, according to some lawmakers, doomed the overall package in the past.
Per the Port of Tacoma's blog, removal of the project from the transport package could help pave the way for other projects, including the highly-lobbied State Route 167 extension, to receive funding.
Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President Tom Pierson, who has campaigned fervently for a transport package to be passed, lauded Inslee for the initiative, especially for the potential impact on SR 167's completion.
“I think it's great news for Pierce County, and it's great news for Washington state and our entire economy,” Pierson said. “Completion of 167 is a game-changer. It's 80,000 jobs that are sustainable, good-paying jobs, not only in Tacoma-Pierce County, but throughout the whole South Sound region. When people get excited about 1,100 jobs that State Farm's bringing to Tacoma, that's great news — great for the economy, we see the impact day in and day out — and it's not even here yet. Well, 80,000 jobs, it's huge.
“We've been so close,” he continued. “We're on everybody's first page in terms of getting this funded. Everybody sees the need. It's such a job creator throughout the state that getting us to a special session in November and getting to a package everybody agrees to is huge.”
Not everyone, however, has responded favorably to Inslee's remarks.
Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom, the head of Washington's Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, jabbed back to what he perceived as shots at the MCC for the failure to pass a transport package during the three legislative sessions in 2013.
“It's unproductive for the governor to be pointing fingers,” said Tom. “We're focused on the future and listening to the citizens of Washington state.
“The House may have sent a transportation wish list over to the Senate, but no bond bill ever followed. Without legislation to sell the bonds that generate the money to pay for projects, no 'transportation package' could have been passed. We're now looking forward to crafting a package that has tangible support from lawmakers, businesses and citizens.
“As the governor knows, that's why the MCC is going around the state to hear directly from the people to see what level of additional transportation spending they will support,” Tom continued, referring to an upcoming, six-city transportation tour to hear from people all over the state.
The listening tour is a bipartisan effort that includes state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, as well Sens. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, co-chairs of the Senate Transportation Committee. It will visit the Evergreen Tacoma Campus' Lyceum Hall from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9.