Fighting Climate Change and Its Effects
Transportation

Achieve balanced and efficient systems, prioritizing those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and congestion.


Issue Chair: Cynthia Stewart, cstewart@lwvwa.org
 DOWNLOAD the Transportation Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Click here! 

Right Now in Transportation

Originally, it was thought that the 2021 session would focus on proposals to change the criteria for funding transportation projects, as discussed last year; establish a new budget to account for necessary new projects; and adjust revenue assumptions to reflect any decisions the legislature makes in response to I-976 (car tab initiative).  The effects of the passage of the car tab initiative, and the need to adjust expectations once it was declared unconstitutional, had a depressive impact on the ability of the legislature to accurately forecast revenue and therefore adopt a new appropriations bill.

Additionally, it was assumed there would be consideration of new ways to fund transportation in light of declines in gas tax revenues, the traditional funding mainstay.  Although I-976 failed by the court ruling it unconstitutional, there is some sentiment that the legislature should enact the $30 car tab limit anyway.

Other issues which are not new but which it was hoped would get more emphasis this year are the need for increased support for transit, consideration of the unmet active transportation needs (active transportation is pedestrian, bicycle, etc.), and review of electrification of vehicles, ferries and aircraft. There will likely also be attention given to new, stricter fuel standards and a carbon tax or fee.

The governor’s proposed transportation bill had a public hearing on Jan. 21. Rep. Fey, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, released his budget recently. His 16-year package includes $26.8 billion in new revenue and $25.8 billion in expenditures. Most of the new revenue would be generated by a gas tax increase of $0.18/gallon (65.9%) and carbon fee of $15 (28%). A per-mile-traveled fee was not included in this proposal. The new spending is primarily on highway-related, which includes maintenance and preservation, culverts and a variety of other capital and operating support at $17.3 billion (66.9%) and carbon reduction initiatives at $8.3 billion (31.9%), with the remainder including aviation and state patrol. There is no bill number for this proposal yet. 

Sen. Hobbs, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, released his budget proposal in principle, soon after. It is called the Forward Washington Plan. His 16-year proposal includes two options. One uses the cap & invest carbon plan estimated to generate $5.16 billion over the 16-year period; the other uses a carbon fee estimated to generate $8.5 billion over the same period.  This plan includes a gas tax increase of $0.06/gallon. Total cost of the plan would be $18-$19 billion. The plan features full funding for fish passage barrier removal, emphasis on highway maintenance and preservation,  investment in new ferries, and more. Negotiations will ensue among the House and Senate before either pass a bill; and then there will be discussions between the two chambers about the final package.

However, when the actual proposed budget details were released two weeks ago for both House and Senate, there were virtually no policy changes incorporated; and they were not 16-year plans. The League has testified for the need to include a great deal more funding for transit, to address greenhouse gas emissions and provide necessary services for low-income and disabled people and seniors. This is not likely to happen. Road usage charges and other changes were also minimized in the proposals.  However, there was an emphasis on electrification of ferries and consideration of electric vehicle incentives for low-income people in both budgets. No revenue assumptions for either budget were released at the time the budgets were presented. 

In the list below, you may notice that many bills are not moving ahead. Note that the transportation issues have a different, extended, set of deadlines and are not subject to the same cut-off schedule of other policy bills.

Bills the League Supports

SB 5444 Implementing a per mile charge on electric and hybrid vehicles. This bill would establish a voluntary early adoption/pilot project to evaluate road usage charges for EVs and hybrids by December 2022.


 Status This bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee on March 16 and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.


SB 5308 Reducing certain transportation electrification fees on hybrid vehicles.


 Status This bill had a public hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb.18.  An executive session has not been scheduled. This bill is unlikely to pass.


HB 1503 Establishing an alternative fuel vehicle retail sales and use tax exemption for lower-income individuals.  This bill would allow an exemption to the vehicle sales tax for EVs for low-income purchasers. 


 Status This bill had a public hearing in the House Finance Committee on Feb. 17. It was passed out of the Finance Committee and referred to the Transportation Committee on Feb. 19 but has not progressed to date. This bill is unlikely to pass.


HB 1514 Addressing transportation demand management. This bill provides a tax exemption for vehicles that are used for ridesharing. 

 Status HB 1514 passed the House on March 5 and passed the Senate on April 8. Because the Senate adopted amendments to the House bill, this bill will go through the reconciliation process over the next two weeks.


HB 1136 Making 2019-2021 supplemental transportation appropriations. This is the governor’s supplemental transportation budget, which each transportation committee will revise in favor of their own bills, but the committee hearings provide background for legislators on what people are interested in or concerned about. The League will support transit funding in particular. 


 Status HB 1136 had a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Jan. 21.


HB 1135/SB 5165 Making transportation appropriations for the 2021-23 fiscal biennium. This bill was originally the governor’s proposed biennium transportation budget proposal.  It used to host the House Transportation budget as a substitute.

 Status A public hearing was held on March 23 and it was passed from the committee in executive session on March 25. It is now in the House Rules Committee. SB 5165 passed the Senate on March 29 and went directly to the floor in the House. The House passed a striking amendment to SB 5165 as a transportation budget on April 2, so that bill will likely be the vehicle for final transportation budget negotiations.


HB 1204 Concerning the electrification of transportation. This bill would require the Washington State Transportation Commission to develop a scoping plan by Sep. 1, 2023, to analyze the need and capacity to support electric vehicles and recommend a strategy to address equity impacts of the current requirement that all vehicle models in 2030 or later be electric and propose regulations as appropriate. 


 Status  HB 1204 passed the House Transportation Committee as a substitute and is now in the House Rules Committee. It is unlikely to pass.


SB 5192 Supporting access to electric vehicle supply equipment. This bill would increase access by the public to electric vehicle charging stations.


Status This bill passed the Senate on April 6 and has been forwarded to the House Appropriations Committee.


Emission Control, Fuel Standard, and Growth Management Bills

The League is supporting or watching a number of bills related to new fuel standards, emissions controls and revisions to the Growth Management Act which have transportation elements. Please see the Climate Change Issue Web Page for the status of these.

SB 5000 Creating a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle pilot sales and use tax exemption program.

HB 1091 Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuel.

HB 1075 Reducing emissions from vehicles associated with on-demand transportation services.

HB 1099 Improving the state's climate response through updates to the state's comprehensive planning framework.

HB 1287 Concerning preparedness for a zero emissions transportation future.

Bills the League Is Watching

HB 1010 Dedicating the state sales tax on motor vehicles for transportation. This bill has not yet been scheduled for public hearing and is not likely to move.


HB 1030 SB 5031 Concerning a community aviation revitalization loan program. The bill would establish a community aviation revitalization board under WSDOT to manage loans to public access general aviation airports through a community aviation revitalization fund. The League does not have a position on aviation except that it contributes to the balanced transportation system, but members may be interested in aviation as a transportation mode and the contribution that general aviation makes to the economy. 


Status SB 5031 passed the Senate on March 4. It passed the House Transportation Committee and the House Capital Budget Committee and is now in the House Rules Committee. HB 1030 passed the House on March 6 and has been passed by the Senate Transportation Committee and is now in the Senate Rules Committee.


HB 1137 Elevating road maintenance and preservation in transportation planning. This bill would reorder the transportation priorities as follows. Note on the table in the third column the changes that League supported in 2019. The reordering of goals could have a significant effect on what is funded.


Current Goals

Proposed in HB 1137

Proposed in 2019

1

Economic vitality

Preservation

Accessibility

2

Preservation

Safety

Safety

3

Safety

Stewardship

Environment & Climate

4

Mobility

Mobility

Health & Resilience

5

Environment

Economic vitality

Equity and Environmental Justice

6

Stewardship

Environment

Preservation




Economic Vitality


 
S
tatus HB 1137 passed the House as a substitute bill. The bill retained the proposed goals listed above and removed other text in the bill that do not affect the proposed priorities. Stewardship is defined as “continuously improve the quality, effectiveness, resilience, and efficiency of the transportation system." Economic vitality is defined as “promote and develop transportation systems that stimulate, support, and enhance the movement of people and goods to ensure a prosperous economy." This bill passed the Senate with a minor amendment on April 7 and will now go through the reconciliation process. Most likely the House will accept the Senate amendment.


SB 5232 Relating to limiting bonding toll revenues on certain state highway facilities. This would limit use of toll revenues for bonding on bridges to only those bridges where tolls are used and would not allow tolls for express lanes to be used for bonding.


Status This bill passed the Senate on March 20 and had a hearing in the House Transportation Committee on April 2. It has not yet been scheduled for executive session. 


Bills the League Opposes

SB 5028 Limiting state and local taxes, fees, and other charges relating to vehicles. This bill would institute the $30 car tabs. It has not been scheduled for public hearing and is unlikely to move.


Bills the League Supports That Failed to Pass

HB 1039 Reporting on, updating, and expanding deployment of existing government programs that provide education on bicycle and pedestrian travel would enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety, including the Safe Routes to Schools program.     

 Status This bill had a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 4. It was scheduled for executive session on Feb. 11 but, no action was taken.



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