House Transportation Committee takes up revenue, spending bills tonight

This evening’s House Transportation Committee meeting is expected to set the stage for successful negotiations to resolve the differences between the two chambers approaches to a comprehensive transportation package. There’s a lot of anticipatory media coverage, most of it focusing on what has to happen to close the gap.

Joseph O’Sullivan writes in the Seattle Times that the two sides are pretty close to agreement.

The Democratic plan, which would spend $15.1 billion over 16 years, contains most of the same projects as the GOP proposal and would be financed with a similar, phased-in 11.7-cent boost in the gas tax and higher fees on truck weights and license plates.

Key areas of disagreement: use of sales tax revenues for transportation projects, language to block the governor from implementing low carbon fuel standards, and the size of a Sound Transit ballot measure to fund expanded rail.

As we wrote yesterday, these differences should not be deal killers. O’Sullivan quotes a statement by AWB president Kris Johnson:

…Johnson said, “this represents an important step forward in the effort to pass the state’s first major, statewide transportation package in a decade.”

House Transportation chair Judy Clibborn sounds optimistic in the Times story.

Although the legislative session is scheduled to end April 26, Clibborn said she doesn’t think that deadline will necessarily stop a package from getting approved.

“I think we would go into (an) extra session,” said Clibborn, adding later: “It doesn’t take months to negotiate if you really, really want to do the negotiations.”

Additional coverage from the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Spokane Spokesman-Review

The House package does not rely on revenues from the cap-and-trade proposal boosted by the governor. The News Tribune editorial board says any such plan needs serious vetting.

It’s no surprise that Inslee’s bill didn’t go anywhere this year: The idea of cap-and-trade is a still new to the public. In theory, it is beautiful. It seems bound to produce losers as well as winners, though. Washington needs the details and a realistic accounting of its downsides as well as its virtues.

The Legislature is poised to act on the first major new investment in transportation infrastructure in a decade. There’s no need to complicate that task with consideration of an untested revenue proposal.