Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers controlling the Senate continued to share different views on the Columbia River Crossing as they convened for the first day of a special legislative session today. The session gives legislators more time to hammer out a compromise budget, and a chance to pass a transportation tax package that includes Washington state’s time-sensitive $450 million commitment to the CRC.
In a live televised press conference today, Inslee rated that transportation package his second priority for the special session. His first priority: passing a state operating budget that includes significant investments in education.
Inslee’s plan to entice Boeing to build its 777X planes in Washington state includes upgrading the state’s transportation system, he said.
“We’ve gotta make some investments, and we gotta do it this year,” Inslee said.
Inslee also said the state is making “good progress” mitigating the project’s negative impacts to a few businesses located upriver of the Interstate 5 Bridge.
“We are very close to an agreement with one of them,” the governor said. “We have more work to do with the others.”
Inslee said replacing the I-5 Bridge is a crucial part of updating the state’s transportation infrastructure, adding: “We need to have a new bridge built.”
Regarding a transportation package, “there has been very good discussions between Sens. (Tracey) Eide, (Curtis) King, and Rep. (Judy) Clibborn,” Inslee said. Eide, a Democrat and a CRC supporter, and King, a Republican and a CRC critic, co-chair the Senate Transportation Committee, while Democrat Clibborn chairs the same committee in the House.
Also on Monday, state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said she does “not see a transportation package this year that includes funding for the Columbia River Crossing,” according to tweets by News Tribune reporter Melissa Santos. Rivers, speaking during an non-televised press conference in Olympia, also said: “I don’t think we’ve had real discussions about mitigation” to help businesses negatively impacted by the CRC’s 116-foot height.
On Thursday, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina and leader of the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate, called the CRC a “poisonous” project that must be disconnected from the transportation package. The coalition, made up of 23 Republicans and two conservative Democrats, holds a delicate majority in the 49-member Senate.