Political Beat

Benton, Cleveland go toe-to-toe on transportation

Should C-Tran be allowed to create a high capacity transportation sub-district to tax the people who would be impacted the most by light rail?

That was one question state senators grappled with Thursday when considering Vancouver Republican Don Benton’s Senate Bill 5088, which would repeal C-Tran’s ability to create a high capacity transportation corridor area. Benton has argued that such a district could be gerrymandered to include places where people from all over the county go to shop, including the Westfield Vancouver mall.

C-Tran said the 2009 law, which applies to Clark and Spokane counties, allows transportation districts to better align who benefits from a particular transportation project, such as light rail, and who pays for it. Last year, C-Tran was unsuccessful when it put a sales tax measure on the ballot to pay for light rail and Bus Rapid Transit; all voters in the C-Tran district got to vote.

Before Benton’s bill went to a vote of the entire Senate on Thursday, Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, introduced three amendments to protect C-Tran’s ability to create a high capacity voting district, and one of those amendments had the support of transportation co-chair Tracy Eide, D-Federal Way. All three amendments failed.

Benton’s bill passed in the Senate, just barely, on a vote of 25-24. The 24 who voted against the bill were Democrats and the 25 who voted in favor of the bill were the 23 Republicans and two conservative Democrats who make up the Senate’s majority caucus.

The bill could have an uphill battle in the House, which has a Democratic 55-43 majority.

Benton’s bill is written in such a way that it would still allow Spokane County to create high capacity transportation areas while prohibiting Clark County from doing so.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

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