BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Hundreds of people packed the gym at Bellevue’s Stevenson Elementary to vent frustration and express concern over the lack of a transportation revenue package from lawmakers in Olympia.
The Senate Majority Coalition Caucus, Republicans and two Democrats, blocked efforts to pass a $10.5 billion transportation package, which would have included a 10-cent gas tax increase.
Tuesday night was the first of ten stops on a feedback tour for state lawmakers.
“Until you know what the citizen wants to do and how they want to do it,” commented State Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), “It’s a little difficult to say, ‘do I get the answer [to funding]. That’s why we’re doing this.”
Sen. King chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and helped block the revenue plan from the legislative floor. The Senate majority, led by Republicans and two Democrats, stated taxpayers were not ready for an increased gas tax and demanded reforms to the Department of Transportation.
Critics suggest the move only delays important programs and projects.
“If you want commerce to continue to flow,” said Chuck Lare with Transit Riders Union, “If you want the region to flourish, transit is a fundamental issue.”
King County in particular stands to lose Metro Transit routes and funding if a transportation revenue package is not passed soon. County Executive Dow Constantine was one of the dozens who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.
The statewide listening tour is in advance of Gov. Jay Inslee’s desire to hold another special session in November. Before that can happen, however, the Senate majority needs to present a transportation plan of its own that Republicans will support.
State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah) is also on the transportation committee, and said Tuesday he questions the purpose of the hearings.
“I do not think Republicans will support a gas tax,” Sen. Mullet said, “This is a response to businesses upset because there is no transportation package. [The Senate Majority] is maybe trying to save face.”