Can we move beyond the gas tax? What is a fair and equitable way to pay for our state road system?
At our last meeting we were joined by a guest speaker, Reema Griffith, Executive Director, Washington State Transportation Commission. She gave a very interesting presentation on research the State Transportation Commission is doing on replacing the current gas tax with a per mile fee. As cars are getting more fuel efficient, and as electric vehicles become more prevalent, the state needs a way to fund roads that is not based solely on the gas tax. Presentation
Making Climate Policy Work is a new book by Danny Cullenward and David G. Victor. This book is an excellent primer on large scale climate change policy, including the Cap and Trade markets like the one established by the recently enacted Washington Climate Commitment Act.
The Caucus is starting a group to read and discuss the book, with a particular focus on understanding the implications of the new law. If you are interested in joining the group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
At our June meeting, Jeff Berner gave a talk on Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth, a new theory of economics that takes into account the balance between having enough for humans to live well vs staying within our ecological limits. This is in contrast to more traditional growth-based economics that measure success by GDP. This new Doughnut Economics model is now being used by Amsterdam and Portland, OR. as part of their city planning. This is being done in coordination with C40, a global group of cities, including Seattle, that are working together on reducing climate change. Seattle could adopt this framework as well, and we discussed communicating with the city on this issue.
The Caucus met on May 3 and heard presentations from Gordon Padelford of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Ben Broesamle of Seattle Subway on the spending plan for Seattle’s car tab revenue. Gordon’s talk compared the Seattle Department of Transportation’s plan to the recent plan advanced by Alex Pedersen, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee. Slides are available here. Ben’s talk focused on the need for an update to the Transit Master Plan before the Sound Transit design for the new downtown tunnel for getting the Link to the Ballard begins. This was part of the original SDOT spending plan, but was left out of Pedersen’s proposal.
Hester Serebrin from Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) provided a briefing on the State Transportation budget packages. TCC has developed a set of climate and equity principles for transportation projects and is evaluating different transportation projects using this lens. TCC seeks support for their Clean and Just Transportation campaign. The 43rd District Caucus has signed on to this campaign.
Tim Gould, the Chair of the Legislative Committee for Sierra Club Washington State, presented on the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan.
Tim reviewed the history of Amtrak Cascades in the region and why implementing the Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan is essential for congestion relief and addressing climate pollution in our region. The plan builds on what we already have, is cost effective, practical, and needs Legislative Champions!
Ben Broesamle spoke at our February meeting about House Bill 1304, which is a bill before the State Legislature that would extend the legal provisions made for monorail to light rail, to help close funding gaps for Sound Transit and provide a path to expand light rail beyond the Sound Transit 3 package. The Urbanist had a great article on this, Hackney Bill Offers Seattle a Path to Fund Rail Priorities.
UPDATE: the bill passed the House Committee on Local Government, and has been referred to the Rules Committee!
Ryan Packer spoke at our February meeting, and gave us a great rundown on the various transportation package proposals that are being negotiated at the State Legislature this spring. There is the Evergreen Proposal from Senator Saldaña, Forward Washington from Senator Hobbs, and a third authored by the House Democrats. Each one comes with different funding mechanisms, includes different projects, and has different impacts on the climate. View the slides for all the details!
Senator Jamie Pedersen was a guest speaker at the December meeting, where he discussed the coming 2021 Legislative Session. This session will be held remotely, which will make it different from previous sessions, and force legislators to focus their attention on fewer bills. Sen Pedersen expects that the Democratic Caucus will prioritize bills which fit into one of a few areas, which include covid-19 recovery, racial justice, and climate change.
Sen. Pedersen highlighted a number of different bills to expect. First, this is a budget year, and the budget is looking better now with an improved economic forecast. There will be a transportation package, and that will also be a major focus. There is a backlog of bridges and culverts that will need to be addressed in the package. Clean Fuels will come up again this year, and there is increased optimism about passing it out of the Senate. Updating the GMA, as proposed by Futurewise, is also expected to be a major bill. Some form of more progressive revenue, with clear goals about how it would be spent, will also come up.