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In Our View: The Special Legislative Session

United for transportation

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The windfall of Tuesday's $121 million revenue forecast should accelerate passage of Washington's operating budget. Within hours of the operating budget vote, a transportation package -- central to the state's economic future -- may (irritating conditional tense again) get floated.
Notwithstanding second-session fatigue, lawmakers need to regroup and make transportation the post-K-12 priority uno. A united front of regional labor, business and local governments has coalesced around Rep. Judy Clibborn's proposal for $7.8 billion in expenditures over 12 years. Lions and lambs, Republicans and Democrats, are laboring in common cause towards a common purpose.
Why? Something about a preventable train wreck concentrates the mind.
Rep. Clibborn's House budget recognizes Snohomish County and the state's largest industrial center as a core economic driver. Make no mistake: Landing the Boeing 777X for Washington is specifically linked to a transportation package. What does and doesn't get done sends a stark message.
Rep. Clibborn's budget aligns with priorities flagged by the Washington Aerospace Partnership. It includes $44 million for the Highway 526 Hardeson Road Interchange at Paine Field. The Senate budget has nothing. Rep. Clibborn's plan has $34 million for I-5 north Marine View Drive to Highway 528 (the peak-use shoulder lane for Everett to Marysville.) Zero from the Senate. Clibborn wants freight-corridor improvements on 41st Street in Everett. The Senate is 0-3.
"We need a package, and we need a House package," said Everett city councilmember Paul Roberts. Roberts has strategized closely with the Economic Alliance, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, and Reid Shockey, the president of the Snohomish County Committee for Improved Transportation.
In a Wednesday email to legislators, Stephanson wrote. "From the City of Everett's perspective I am sure you recognize that, at a minimum, any transportation package must include the 'North Puget Sound Manufacturing Corridor' projects that are in Chairwoman Clibborn's House 'striking amendment.'"
Stephanson is spot on. The public interest and fostering growth need to trump politics.
"Transportation improvement projects are critical to the health of our county and state economy," said Shannon Affholter, vice president of the Economic Alliance. "Our state simply cannot wait any longer to invest in infrastructure to support our core industries; otherwise they will end up moving jobs elsewhere, hurting Washington families."
Policymakers better internalize Affholter's message. We're in the fight of our (aerospace-sector) lives, and time is short.

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