Gov. Jay Inslee’s characterization of Washington State Senate Republicans as having been unwilling to compromise during negotiations over a multi-billion-dollar transportation package during the 2014 legislative session are an outright lie, GOP leaders say.
They also accuse Inslee of having violated a confidentiality agreement between the two sides and, to prove the point, on Friday took the unusual step of breaking the deal themselves to show precisely where each side stood as the process unfolded.
“In light of blatant and false accusations by the governor and his violation of a confidentiality agreement with the negotiating parties, we have been forced to release the negotiating positions of the House and Senate,” said Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima), co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “In making these unprecedented disclosures, we are setting the record straight on just how far the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) moved toward the Democrats’ position and how truly close we came to an agreement during the last two weeks of the legislative session.”
According to figures released by Republicans, for instance, the MCC began negotiations last June with a plan that allotted no dollars to so-called “multi-modal” programs — including bike paths, light rail and bus service — while Democrats were demanding $837 million.
Nine months later, Republicans had upped their offer to $807 million, while the Democrats had actually increased theirs to $887 million.
Meanwhile, the initial Republican offer would have devoted $280 million to stormwater mitigation, while the Democrats would have spent $40 million. By February, the Republicans had come down to $40 million while the Democrats wanted to spend nothing at all.
According to King, the Republicans showed great flexibility in every financial aspect of the plan but held firm on their demand that any expenditures be tied to administrative reforms in how the Department of Transportation bids and builds its projects.
Inslee has repeatedly insisted Republicans never asked for assurances during negotiations that he wouldn’t use executive orders to impose carbon gas taxes — which a panel appointed by the governor himself estimated could add as much as a dollar to the cost of every gallon of gas sold in Washington.
But as recently as Thursday, Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) stated in an interview with TVW that carbon taxes were very much a consideration, and that Republicans would never agree to raise the state’s gas tax by the 10.5 or 11.5 cents a gallon needed to fund a massive transportation package until Inslee took carbon taxes off the table.
“What was missing throughout the 2014 session was bipartisan leadership by the governor and commitment to reforming our broken transportation system,” King continued. “Gov. Inslee failed to bring the two parties together, and Democratic co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee (Tracey Eide of Federal Way) — along with leadership among the Senate’s minority Democrats — failed to allow reforms to come to a vote.
“Had these two things happened,” King said, “we likely would have come to an agreement and approved a transportation package that worked for all of Washington. Instead, the governor preferred engaging in a Washington D.C.-style ‘blame game’ instead of showing true bipartisan leadership.”