Local lawmakers say transportation plan must go to voters

Kitsap lawmakers have several goals for the legislative session set to begin Jan. 14 — balancing the state budget, securing transportation funding and bolstering state security.

But above all, legislators are determined to resolve the biggest challenges facing the state in the allotted 60 days. Last year’s session was the longest on record.

The partisan deadlock in the House of Representatives was widely blamed for failure to pass an $8.8 billion, 10-year transportation spending and taxing package last year.

But after winning two November 2001 special elections in Snohomish County, Democrats now hold a 50-48 majority in the House.

“If the Democrats have 50 votes in the House and 25 in the Senate and the governor is ready to sign, then we’ll be out in 60 days,” said Rep. Beverly Woods, R-23rd District. “That will be difficult to do, though. We’re dealing with issues that took six months last year — with no resolution — to do this year in 60 days.

“We need to sit down and come up with a bipartisan (transportation) package that we can all be proud of,” Woods added.

Gov. Gary Locke released a transportation proposal in December. It was essentially a revised version of the plan that deadlocked the Legislature in 2001.

Among other things, it includes a 9 cent per gallon gas tax increase to be phased in over three years.

Left unanswered is whether the Legislature will enact such a plan itself, or send it to voters for approval. Kitsap lawmakers said last week that they favor seeking voter approval.

“Bottom line, it will take more money, even with efficiencies in place, to put together a transportation plan,” Rep. Pat Lantz, D-26th District, said. “And we need to put that plan before voters.”

Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-35th District, said her support for the transportation package was dependent upon it going to a public vote.

“If there is an increase in the gas tax, then I want to see a commitment to ... stabilize financing for ferries, and I want the package to be put before the people,” said Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-23rd District. “If we don’t do that, then people would make that an issue. Let the voters make a choice once all the information is presented to them.”

Rockefeller plans to lobby for expansion of passenger-only ferry service on the Southworth-Seattle and Kingston-Seattle routes.

“I plan to focus on the transportation system (during the Jan. 14-March 14 session,” Rockefeller said. “We need to jump start it, give it a charge to get things moving.”

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