Monday, April 29, 2013

Legislative Update: Waiting for Special Session

The 2013 State Legislature ended its regular session yesterday after passing a transportation budget, but still has to complete work on a biennial operating budget. So, Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to begin on May 13.

It is expected that a new transportation funding package, which includes funding for transit and road projects as well as local options for transit agencies, will be discussed as part of the special session. The most significant part of that package for Community Transit is a provision that would allow the agency to take a ballot measure to local voters seeking new funding. Of course, there is no guarantee that any new transportation legislation will be adopted.

Passage of the regular transportation budget still is good news for Community Transit. A modest amount of direct transit funding that was established in 2012 was funded again. This will bring Community Transit about $800,000 in the next fiscal year.

Also, Community Transit secured two Regional Mobility Grants, one to match federal funding for the purchase of 17 new Double Tall buses and another to begin study and design for efforts to get a park & ride built in Mukilteo.

While the direct funding is welcome, the funding need is much greater. Community Transit cut $23 million of service in 2010-2012 dollars, so it would take at least that much every year to restore the same level of service.

Before the special session starts, Community Transit will continue to ask legislators to support transit funding. This extends to the new House Republican leader Dan Kristiansen, who becomes Snohomish County's highest ranking legislator.

In his remarks calling for a special session, Inslee mentioned transit funding as one of the items he would like the legislature to resolve. Let's hope this next session is truly "special" for transit.

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