Establishing Fair Revenue

Achieve a balanced transportation system that is integrated, adequate and effective, prioritizes maintenance and emphasizes emissions reduction and traffic reduction strategies such as public transportation.

Issue Team Chair: Cynthia Stewart,
DOWNLOAD the Transportation Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

2020 Legislative Session Wrap Up
(Interested in the 2019 Session Recap? Click Here)

Revenue Was the Biggest Transportation Issue in 2020

In the 2019 session, a major transportation bill was passed, providing funding and a timeline for a large number of transportation projects around the state. Other key measures that were passed include legislation advancing green transportation, enhancing a shift to electric vehicle use, increasing safety for pedestrians, and creating a state commercial aviation coordination commission.

This session was driven by uncertainty about how to address the impacts of Initiative 976, passed by the voters in November.  This Initiative, if approved as constitutional by the court, will have a devastating effect on state and local transportation funding, especially transit.

It would lead to permanent loss of revenue to the state of $453 million in this biennium, increasing in magnitude to $684 million in the 2021-23 biennium once fully phased in. The Multimodal Transportation Account, the most impacted and the most flexible of the transportation accounts, would go from $541 million to $202 million in 2019-21, a loss of 63%. Pending that judicial outcome, there is an injunction that allows jurisdictions to continue to collect the revenue, but the state is cautious about not spending funds they would potentially need to return.

The final adopted Transportation budget appropriates $10.372 billion and sustains the original transportation package funding principles of safety, maintenance and repair and continues most proposed projects through a set of under-expenditure assumptions, which will need to be re-evaluated next year. It includes about 2/3 of the green transportation program within the public transportation category that was originally proposed.  I-976 has not been addressed in this budget and the Legislature continues to await its dispensation in the court before making lasting budget changes.  None of the bills affecting Sound Transit were adopted.

Provisos in the budget that reflect some of the bills that did not pass include direction to WSDOT to conduct a feasibility study of performance-based evaluations of projects; to the Joint Transportation Committee to update transportation policy goals to include equity, environmental justice, congestion relief; to the State Transportation Commission to consider how the road usage charge could be implemented, scaled to a statewide level, and how the funds could be used (in other words, must they be restricted to the same purposes as the gas tax?); and implementation of an automated HOV enforcement pilot project.

The Governor signed the transportation budget on March 31 with a number of vetoes related to assumptions about revenue changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s result on the State’s economy. Some of the vetoes were related to choices about delaying or eliminating projects.  Some were eliminating administrative costs. Some were related to funding assumed in the budget but for which policy bills were not passed.  A complete revised project list is not yet available, but if you would like information after it becomes available, please contact Cynthia Stewart,

Click on Bill # for detailed information.  See UPDATES below.
Bills the League Supported That Have Been Signed Into Law
    • HB 2641 Authorizing cities to provide passenger-only ferry service allows cities bordering the Puget Sound and Lake Washington to establish, finance, and provide passenger-only ferry (POF) service provided they develop a POF investment plan in advance of commencing service. This bill passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 27, 2020.
    • HB 2322 Making supplemental transportation appropriations for the 2019-2021 fiscal biennium has passed the Legislature and was signed on March 31, 2020, with partial vetoes.

    Bills the League Supported That Did Not Pass

    • HB 1508 / SB 5521 Concerning the distribution of connecting Washington funds to local and state transportation agencies would continue the 16-year transportation funding plan called Connecting Washington established in 2015. New revenue would support the new transportation funding package under development this year.  Both bills died because they did not move out of committee by the cutoff date.
    • HB 2068 Relating to providing discounted toll rates to certain individuals on certain tolled facilities would establish a program that would provide a 40% discount in tolls on the following roads for people in the TANF and food stamp programs. Roads include SRs 167, 405 and 509.  Placed in Rules “X” file.
    • HB 1664 / SB 5336 Relating to advancing electric transportation would support development of transportation electrification plans by public electric utilities and asks the Department of Commerce to conduct a study.
    • HB 1228 / SB 5130 Increasing transportation revenues to help fund state fish barrier removal. Neither bill passed out of committee by the cutoff date.
    • HB 2285 Elevating road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning.  This bill did not pass out of committee by the cutoff.
    • HB 2362 / SB 6652  Addressing local transportation revenue options, would provide cities and counties with various councilmanic taxing authority, including utility tax, motor vehicle excise tax and sales tax at various rates, to be used for transportation purposes.  Neither bill progressed and both have died in committee.
    • HB 2439 Making rail investigation and inspection information available to certain state and local governmental entities.  This bill would require the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to share information collected through UTC rail inspection and investigation activities, as well as information collected by Federal Railroad Administration inspectors, with other state agencies and first-class cities as necessary to assist them in the performance of their agency functions under state law, except for confidential information related to investigations. This bill is did not move to the floor by the cutoff.
    • HB 2461 / SB 6452 Including health in the state transportation system policy goals. 
    • HB 2688 / SB 6398 Expanding transportation policy goals. Neither bill passed out of committee by the cutoff date
    • HB 2913   Concerning transportation revenue would increase the gas tax by 0.7 cents on July 1, 2020 and by one cent per year for the next nine years, to a total increase by 2029 of 9.7 cents per gallon.  The revenue would be deposited into a new Fish Passage Barrier Removal Account to pay debt service on the bonds that would be authorized by HB 2914.  This is necessary to cover the cost of the remedy mandated in the Tribe lawsuit against the state of Washington, which is removal of fish passage barriers by 2030. This bill did not progress since its initial public hearing.

    • HB 2914 Authorizing bonds for transportation funding would allow issuance of $3.9 billion of GO bonds for fish barrier removal projects.  This is associated with HB 2913 that would raise revenue to pay for fish passage barrier removal. The fish barrier removal program is mandated by a federal court injunction resulting from a lawsuit filed against the state by 21 NW area Tribes.  The court order mandates removal of the barriers by 2030.  There are more than 1000 barriers subject to this ruling.  The bonds would be paid from revenue generated by gas tax and vehicle registration fees. This bill did not progress since its initial public hearing.  Fish passage barrier removal will be funded in another way.

    • SB 6497 Making supplemental transportation appropriations for the 2019-2021 fiscal biennium was originally a companion bill to HB 2322; but it was amended by the Senate Transportation Committee and passed to the Rules Committee . The final Transportation budget was approved via HB 2322.

    • SB 6586 Implementing a per-mile charge on electric and hybrid vehicles.  This charge was recommended by the State Transportation Commission following a study they conducted over the last several years.  The bill asks the Commission and the Department of Licensing to develop an implementation plan for the fee and gives an implementation date of July 1, 2024.  At that time, the current transportation electrification and hybrid transportation vehicle fees would be rescinded. This bill needed to pass out of the committee in the opposite house but could be considered necessary to implement the budget.  However, in other discussions, it has become clear that the per-mile charge is off the table for 2020.
    • SB 6606 Concerning regional transit authorities would require Sound Transit to use new depreciation schedules for the MVET and repeals the part of I-976 that relates to Sound Transit if I-976 is upheld. This bill remains in the Rules Committee.

    The League of Women Voters of Washington is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization.
    The League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. LWVWA Education Fund contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. The League of Women Voters Education Fund does not endorse the contents of any web pages to which it links.

    League of Women Voters of the United States

    Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software