Leverage—the oldest trick in the political playbook. A strategy cherished by politicians looking to score political points, the reason Democrats in Olympia refuse to work with the Majority Coalition Caucus on a much needed transportation package.
Democrat Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way admitted to employing the strategy when Sen. Curtis King, co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, proposed a compromise package on transportation last week. Republicans would get their transportation reforms and Democrats would get their gas tax increase. Unfortunately, Sen. Eide had very different plans. The Democrat co-chair of the Transportation Committee refused to hear of any transportation reforms until the Senate passed a gas tax hike. First, gas tax and second, reforms. Sen. Eide publicly announced, “I get a package, [then] we’ll hear reforms… It’s the only leverage I have.”
Sen. Eide just doesn’t get it. She does not understand the transportation needs of Washingtonians. She does not understand how to best represent her constituents and she certainly does not understand her responsibility as a legislator.
For King County residents, transportation is not a political game. Traffic congestion, roads in need of repair and unfinished transportation projects—these are the day-to-day realities of King County commuters, our daily transportation frustrations. Traffic congestion means longer hours on the road. Longer hours spent commuting translates to time lost—time away from completing an important project at work, time away from our loved ones. Roads in disrepair pose a greater risk for accidents. Unfinished projects demand more and more of tax payers’ money. These realities should never be taken lightly much less used as political leverage.
Last weekend, the Majority Coalition gave a transportation compromise one last attempt. Sen. King introduced a revised transportation package in hopes of garnering enough support from Democrats in Olympia to pass. The newest offer spends $12 billion over the next 12 years on highway preservation and improvements on Interstate 5, I-405 and Highway 395. Appealing to Democrats, the package also raises the gas tax by 11.5 cents to help pay for the proposed projects—but not without an exchange. The Majority Coalition continues to insist on important, cost-effective transportation reforms. Specifically, their proposal re-directs sales tax revenue for transportation from the state general fund to transportation projects. The simple reform would boost highway project revenue by $720 million and reduce completion time.
Democrats in both the House and Senate refuse to budge—their primary concern is maintaining leverage. Playing political games with transportation needs, using Washington’s interests as political leverage—these are not the actions of responsible legislators. Washingtonians deserve more, we need legislators who will fight for us—not party interests. Let’s work together to ensure the election of responsible legislators in 2014.