Legislature to face challenges with transportation and homelessness

VIDEO: Legislature to face challenges with transportation and homelessness

OLYMPIA, Wash. — It’s scheduled to be a short session for Washington lawmakers, but they face tall challenges.

Initiative 976 cuts $450 million from state transportation funds alone over the next two years -- though it’s been put on hold while legal challenges work their way through the courts.

“Nobody wants to bring Washington to a halt,” said House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox.

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So, Republican leaders offered a partial solution at today’s Legislative Forum sponsored by The Associated Press.

Backfilling mainly by taking Sen. Braun’s idea that says sales tax that accrues to the sale of vehicles should go for transportation.

But Democratic leaders like Senate Democratic Leader Andy Billig see other uses for vehicle sales tax money.

“I’m cautious about diverting funds from the general fund because there is such need and such important investments that we know will pay a return that we haven’t made yet.”

Gov. Jay Inslee agreed. “I don’t believe citizens want to see less teachers in the classroom. I don’t believe citizens want to have less mental health care for the homeless at all. So no, I do not believe that’s the solution to this problem.”

The governor is focused on spending $300 million from the state’s rainy day fund for emergency homeless shelters. But leaders on both sides say there’s not the supermajority needed to tap the rainy day fund.

And the incoming House speaker wants a more comprehensive approach.

“We have a shortage of affordable housing and just housing for working families, so we have problems across a spectrum,” said Rep. Laurie Jinkins.

As he faces reelection, Inslee is not proposing new taxes.

Neither are any Republican leaders.

“That is listening to the hard-working taxpayers and job creators of the state of Washington,” said Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler.