Issaquah pushes for Legislature movement on transportation
January 14, 2014
By Peter Clark
Transportation will continue to top Issaquah’s wish list for this year’s legislative session.
At a casual breakfast meeting Jan. 6, city leaders met with local representatives and Issaquah’s lobbyist Doug Levy to discuss the regular session, which began Jan. 13. Fifth District Republican Reps. Jay Rodne and Chad Magendanz joined Democratic Sen. Mark Mullet in talking about the city’s interests in possible legislation.
“As you travel around the region, I imagine that every jurisdiction names transportation as the No. 1 concern, and Issaquah is no different,” new Mayor Fred Butler said. “Last year was a tough legislative session around a transportation package, because there wasn’t one.”
Although Democrats introduced a $10 billion package last year, three special sessions could not garner legislative agreement to pass it. In October, the Issaquah City Council approved its legislative agenda for this current session, highlighting its desire for the passage of a transportation package.
Butler expressed the city’s desire to provide funding for Interstate 90 improvements, including a justification study on the potential overhaul of the Front Street interchange.
“That’s the first step in getting federal funding for any major project,” he said.
Rodne cautioned against the expectation of a transportation package this year.
“I think it’s going to be an uphill battle to get a transportation package in 2014,” he said. “It seems to me that negotiations have come to a halt. I’ve heard a strong sentiment to finish on time and not let a transportation package hold that up. This might be punted to 2015.”
Mullet voiced strong resistance to delay a package any further.
“Traffic right now sucks,” he said. “Punting it is a bad idea. We’re at a point where either we solve the problem or the problem gets worse.”
Mullet, beginning his second year in the senate, said he did not want transportation to get lost in a political shuffle.
“I kept trying to bring up transportation last year and was told the operating budget takes precedence,” he said. “Now, on a year when the operating budget is on autopilot, I’m told it will be punted. I think we need to send it to the voters.”
Levy mentioned several bills he expected legislators to introduce, and said he felt positive the house and senate could find common ground.
“We saw a lot we could work with last year from both the packages that passed the house and the one introduced in the senate,” Levy said.
Because the Legislature passed the biennial budget last year, the 2014 session will run only 60 days, ending March 13. Additionally, all of the state house representatives and some of the senators will be up for election in November.
“It’s a short session, but I’m still optimistic we can get something done in 60 days,” Mullet said.