Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I hope this email finds you well! I hope you and your families are safe after the recent Pacific Northwest storm. Just as Mother Nature reminds us of the seasons changing from the hot and sunny days of summer to the cold and windy days of fall/winter, the legislative season is also transitioning from the interim into the 2022 legislative session.
Since becoming one of our state's transportation budget leaders in 2019, I have been the voice for fiscal responsibility, reform, and reprioritization. My goals have been to keep costs down, stop more forced taxes on drivers, and complete projects within existing revenue.
In this e-newsletter, I will give you a glimpse into a major plan I will champion during the 2022 legislative session by seeking to create a sustainable and equitable transportation funding model by reimagining state budgeting processes. To learn more, please watch my recent video update by clicking on the logo below.
For a more comprehensive look at my plan, please continue reading this update. I also encourage you to visit and bookmark this website.
Our state continues to face multiple transportation-related issues, including a growth in population, which puts more people and cars on our roadways; proper and safe movement of goods and services; failing bridges; outdated railways; route cancellations on state ferries; massive staffing shortages; the potential for another transportation package with new taxes; and the challenges of balancing the state's projects with their associated costs.
Democrats have expressed interest in increasing the state gas tax anywhere from 9.8 to 18 cents per gallon to pay for a new transportation package. If that happens, the majority's decisions could cost you nearly $11 more every time you fill up your tank with gas.
Washington state drivers regularly pay some of the highest gasoline prices in the nation, thanks in part to our state's 49.4 cent gas tax. But if you think gas prices are expensive now, wait until two new regressive policies enacted by Democrats during the 2021 legislative session fully go into effect. Some estimates predict House Bill 1091 (low-carbon fuel standard) and Senate Bill 5126 (cap and tax) could add nearly 50 cents to the price of a gallon of gas by 2030, in addition to increasing the cost of food, goods, and heating for families across the state.
It's time we stop relying on the Democrats' regressive gas tax system and unsustainable model of funding. While taxes continue to increase with each transportation package that's enacted, collected revenues are steadily declining, especially in light of the trend to adopt policies meant to reduce vehicle miles traveled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the sale of fossil fuels on which many of these taxes are imposed.
I will be championing a new approach to transportation budgeting, and a holistic approach to overall state budgeting. I will introduce, along with several of my House Republican colleagues, the Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act at the start of the 2022 legislative session.
The REAL Act will be comprised of solutions and legislation that:
- Reprioritizes and shifts funding streams to provide better services for all modes of transportation by using growing general fund revenue instead of relying on shrinking transportation revenue.
- Reprioritizes and directs sales tax paid on motor vehicles to preservation and maintenance of the existing transportation system.
- Reprioritizes and shifts funding on sales tax paid on transportation projects from the general fund to the transportation budget.
- Recognizes fish passage barrier projects as inherently correcting environmental justice concerns without further review and process.
- Creates a program that bridges the divide between transportation safety in urban and rural communities.
- Pauses the commute trip reduction program while studying the impacts of commuting and travel due to COVID-19.
- Reprioritizes and shifts the funds for the Safe Routes to School Program to the general fund with direction to better coordinate funding for safe pathways to new schools.
- Prevents barriers to recruitment and employment for Washington State Ferries that are part of the current employment practices which make it difficult to recruit women and people from minority and LBTGQ communities.
The REAL Act is our pathway and opportunity to rejuvenate our way of thinking and move away from the antiquated and obsolete way of state budgeting.
State transportation revenues have plateaued roughly around $6 to $7 billion annually and are expected to remain stagnant for years to come. Conversely, the state general fund – even during a pandemic – continues to experience record tax collections. Washington state has the nation's second-highest tax revenue growth.
Adopting the REAL Act would redirect approximately $3.2 billion per biennium — beginning in 2025 — from the transportation budget to the operating budget for critical transportation needs while still leaving the operating budget with billions in surplus funds that could be used for other state services and programs.
To provide the caliber of transportation needs and social services throughout the state, general fund resources are the most equitable and sustainable funding option – without raising taxes or placing further financial burdens on anyone.
I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner with legislative budget writers to fund Washington state's needs while reimagining transportation funding.
I would like to hear from you. Please contact my office with your questions, thoughts, and concerns about this new approach. My contact information can be found at the bottom of this email.
Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
It's an honor to serve you.