Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you so much to all of you who participated in my telephone town hall last week – it was a great discussion! At one point, we had almost 800 people on the phone. During the hour, I heard from and answered questions about health care, education, transportation, caring for the most vulnerable and more. I am working on calling back each one of you that left me a voicemail. Here are the poll questions we asked, and the results.
What issue is most important to you?
- 24.5% – jobs and the economy
- 23.8% – health care
- 22.4% – other
- 18.2% – education
- 11.2% – transportation
Would you support a transportation package that would increase gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon over four years in order to fund road maintenance and new transportation projects?
- 65.7% – no, I do not support a gas tax increase
- 24.3% – only if it's tied to serious reforms in transportation spending and project designs
- 10.0% – yes
What is the most important thing we can do for education this year?
- 45.7% – fund basic education as required by the state constitution
- 30.4% – improve teacher and student tests/evaluations
- 17.4% – fund cost of living adjustments for teachers
- 4.3% – fund the recent class size initiative
- 2.2% – fund early learning and all-day kindergarten
If you didn't get to participate in the call and want to voice your opinion on these questions, click here to participate in my online survey.
One of the issues I'm hearing a lot about by phone, email and in the telephone town hall is the recent gas tax package passed in the Senate. First, I have serious concerns with the lack of accountability with current tax dollars by the state Department of Transportation. We've seen too many headlines with transportation project mistakes and negligence that are costing us more money. I'm so glad the Senate addressed some of these problems with reforms that include:
- Senate Bill 5991 would use the Environmental Legacy Stewardship Account toward stormwater and fish passage barrier removal projects.
- Senate Bill 5993 would adjust the apprenticeship requirement for new highway projects to only apply to projects costing $3 million or more for five years.
- Senate Bill 5994 would streamline and speed up environmental permitting requirements.
- Senate Bill 5995 would add congestion relief as a transportation funding priority.
- Senate Bill 5996 would streamline permitting and require WSDOT to report when change orders for engineering errors exceed $500,000.
- Senate Bill 5997 would encourage WSDOT to use “design build” on projects costing more than $10 million and create a review panel to improve the design-build process.
- Senate Bill 5990 would exempt state highway projects in the new package from paying the sales tax and all projects after 2019.
- Senate Bill 5993 would require Washington State Ferries to use design-build, fixed-price contracts to purchase new ferries. If bids are more than 5 percent of the engineer's estimate, the contract can be re-bid to out of state companies (right now there is a “build in Washington” requirement).
- The tax package also mandates that if the state adopts a low-carbon fuel standard, all funds for non-roads projects like transit and bike paths would be re-directed to fund roads.
While I understand the critical role of infrastructure in our economy, I believe we need to fix the problems with the bureaucracy before we ask drivers to pay more at the pump. I'd like to see the reforms passed by the Senate play out first. We must ensure any new dollars will be used smarter and do more to advance a strong transportation system in our state.
My door is always open to hear what you think and to answer your questions. Please feel free to contact my office anytime. It's an honor to serve you.