Abbarno: Democrats’ transportation package trades one bad idea for another, sweeps vital infrastructure funding

Democrats in the state House of Representatives passed their partisan 16-year, $16.8 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation funding package late Tuesday night on a near party-line vote, with Republicans arguing against it.

Senate Bill 5974 taps into expected auction revenue from the state's new cap-and-trade carbon reduction law and raises license fees to pay for the plan. Senate Bill 5975 sets forth the spending in the plan.

The original proposal also would have enacted a proposed six-cent-per gallon tax on fuel exported from Washington's five refineries. However, Democrats backed away from that $2 billion tax plan after swift backlash from neighboring states, and replaced it Tuesday through an amendment that would transfer $100 million a year from the state's Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA). The revolving account provides low- and no-interest loans to cities and counties to pay for infrastructure vital to public health and safety.

Rep. Peter Abbarno, the assistant ranking Republican on the House Capital Budget Committee, which oversees allocations for the PWAA, joined other Republicans Tuesday in voting against Amendment 1231, which authorizes the swap.

“This proposal trades one bad idea for another. The Public Works Assistance Account funds local projects, such as water, sewer and broadband, so communities can build housing, create economic opportunities, and improve the quality of life for our families. Unfortunately, the amendment sweeps one-and-a-half billion dollars from the account, which will clean it out and deny our cities and counties the ability to have this funding source for vital infrastructure,” said Abbarno, R-Centralia.

“This is very frustrating, because in my community, we have sewer, water and stormwater systems that are more than 100 years old. In my community, we need things like affordable housing. But affordable housing isn't a box you drop on land and it just happens. The Public Works Board and this account helps fund sewer systems and expand them so that we can build housing,” Abbarno said during floor debate.

“PWAA is also responsible for helping deploy reliable broadband to communities throughout the state from Forks to the Palouse,” Abbarno added. “Taking money away from this account is taking away economic opportunity from so many communities across our state that need this infrastructure to create jobs and improve quality of life.”

Abbarno says House Republicans offered 24 amendments to the transportation tax and spending bills, most of which were rejected by the Democratic majority.

“These real solutions to this funding package never received consideration. Instead, House Democrats gave away free bus rides, electrified the Puget Sound ferry system, and set plans in place so that Washingtonians will not be able to buy, sell or register any vehicle with an internal combustion engine after 2030. It's a terrible plan and I voted against it,” said Abbarno.

The bill heads back to the Senate for further consideration.


Washington State House Republican Communications