Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference on Tuesday to announce that he wants to call a special session of the state Legislature this fall.
The session would address what Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine described as the state’s urgent transportation needs.
"There is no excuse for inaction,” Inslee said. “The order is Winston Churchill's order of the day in World War II, which is, ‘action this day.’"
Inslee has the authority to call the Legislature into session, yet he stopped short of actually doing so. He said he would call a special session if state senators made it clear they would vote in favor of a comprehensive package of transportation projects. A $10 billion package of transportation projects, fueled primarily by a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax, died in the state Senate this year.
“I went through six months of discussion, planning, cajoling, negotiation, whatever verb you can come up with, to try to get the Senate to act, and they didn't do a dang thing,” Inslee said. “Now they need to step up to the plate."
The Washington House passed a transportation package this year, but the Senate’s Republican-led Senate majority called for the need to reform wasteful transportation spending. Members of the Senate majority coalition also criticized a combined highway and light rail bridge across the Columbia River between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash.
On Tuesday, Inslee said he was open to leaving the Columbia River Crossing off the project list. He called for compromise from bipartisanship from both legislative chambers.
State Sen. Rodney Tom (D-Medina) said his majority coalition is holding seven listening sessions around the state to see how the public wants to move ahead on transportation.
"We want to make sure that we have a package that works for everybody, not just the special interests in Olympia that love for you to spend money,” Tom said.
Tom is one of two Democrats in the Senate's Republican-dominated coalition.
King County Executive Dow Constantine said the consequences of continued delay in state funding would be unacceptable for the county's aging roads and shrinking transit systems:
“We’re moving into a year when we’re only going to be able to pave seven miles of our 1,500-mile road system, where we will have laid off half of the people in our roads division and where we’re looking at completely eliminating 65 bus routes and curtailing many more. Those are the kinds of cuts that our economy just can’t tolerate.”
Washington Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson and the Senate Transportation Committee’s co-chairs will also participate in the transportation "listening tour." It starts on September 17 in Bellevue. Everett, Wenatchee, Yakima, Spokane, Vancouver and Tacoma will also host similar events over the following three weeks.