The Senate released its transportation budget and passed it out of committee Thursday, February 27.

Similar to the House budget released earlier in the week, the supplemental budget largely works to address the passage of Initiative 976 (I-976).  I-976 rolls back state and local motor vehicle license fees to $30 per year, as well as repeals a variety of other vehicle fees. The loss of revenue to the state is estimated to be $450 million for the 2019-2021 biennium, and upwards of $2 billion over the next decade. Local governments are estimated to lose close to $2 billion over the next ten years.

The Senate un-pauses all transportation projects that were halted in December as a part of Governor Inslee’s budget. As a result, the Senate budget must look elsewhere to make up for the losses associated with I-976. It largely does this through one-time revenue transfers, budget cuts, assumptions of under expenditures, and shifting tolling activity to toll accounts. The Senate budget also benefits from a fund transfer of $25 million from the General Fund into the Multimodal Transportation Account.

RAP program

Much like the House budget, the Senate budgets assumes the Rural Arterial Program administered by the County Road Administration Board will underspend in this biennium. As a result, the program sees a $6.2 million “cut.” We disagree with the analysis that the revenues will not be spent and are working to remedy this shortfall.

Next steps

The Senate budget was passed out of committee with little changes and now awaits action on the Senate floor. After it passes out of the Senate, budget negotiations will begin out of the public eye. We expect to see a final budget sometime in the next week or two.