The dust has yet to settle from Election Day, but the State Legislature is already gearing up to get to work. Facing a $2 billion budget shortfall, the Governor called legislators to Olympia for a special legislative session which will begin on November 28. Cascade staff and volunteers will be in Olympia from the start of special session to sine die (the fancy word for the close of the legislative session). Why? Because we have a responsibility.
We have a responsibility to make smart decisions that will improve our lives right now and build a Washington worthy of our grandchildren. A responsibility to build a transportation system that will make Washington work now and into the future. A transportation system that generates local prosperity, connects our neighborhoods, protects our most vulnerable, creates better communities and provides everyone with the freedom to safely get where they need to go. But we can’t fulfill our responsibility unless we have an open and honest conversation about the problems that we’re facing today and the problems we’ll face in the future. And that’s exactly what we plan to do this session.
Washington state faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The Great Recession has already forced our state to cut more than $10 billion in spending over the past three years and this year we’re facing another $2 billion deficit. Things we all care about, like education and health care, have already been cut to the bone. In addition, Washington’s primary transportation revenue source, the gas tax, is limited, committed to existing projects and not keeping up with inflation or our future needs. Meanwhile, local jurisdictions have slashed funding for road repair and transit in the face of declining property and sales tax revenues.
Making matters worse, a decade’s worth of Tim Eyman-backed state initiatives have eliminated many traditional transportation funding sources, leaving our transportation system in a state of disrepair and our state with few options to fund necessary investments like fixing broken roads and bridges, improving transit and expanding family-friendly bicycle infrastructure.
With this fiscal crisis demanding nearly all of our legislators’ attention, they’ve had little time to consider how to fund and build a transportation system that reduces: our contribution to climate change, our state’s growing obesity epidemic and our dependence on oil and $4 a gallon gas – and even less time to think about how bicycling can help solve all of these problems. But that’s where Cascade enters the picture.
Despite tremendous challenges, this legislative session presents an opportunity. An opportunity to have an open and honest conversation about how we deal with our fiscal crisis and build a transportation system that will make Washington work for our future. An opportunity to develop smart, simple, innovative solutions that create safe neighborhood streets, improve public health, cut costly red tape and save our cities money. An opportunity to have hundreds of conversations about how we can create a better community through bicycling. And we’re looking forward to seizing this opportunity.
Cascade’s 2012 legislative agenda will help our state deal with the problems we’re facing today while preparing for the problems of the future.
We’re working with our partners in the Transportation for Washington coalition to figure out how to fund and build a 21st century transportation system.
We’re collaborating with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and dozens of other organizations and community groups to pass HB 1217 – the Neighborhood Safe Speeds bill, to make safer streets and neighborhoods by allowing cities and towns the authority to set speed limits to 20 miles per hour on non-arterial streets without costly red tape.
We’re partnering with cities across the state to pass HB 1700, which gives cities and counties the flexibility to use updated guidelines for designing bicycle and pedestrian projects, helping to increase safety and reduce project costs.
We’re working with our friends in the public health community to integrate health in transportation policy, planning and investments by adding health to Washington’s transportation goals in order to reduce chronic diseases, reduce motor-vehicle related injuries and deaths and ensure transportation access for all people.
And we’re working to ensure our state gives back federal funds proportionately, so that pedestrian and bicycle projects aren’t unfairly impacted.
We had a successful session last year, passing the Vulnerable Users bill (SB 5326) and a bill creating a complete streets grant program (HB 1071). We’re working hard to build on these wins, but like last year (and every year!), we need your help.
Over the coming weeks and months we’ll need you to help advance our agenda and create a better community through bicycling. We’ll need your help contacting your legislators, writing letters to the editor, lobbying and testifying, so stay tuned about how we can work together to build a better future.
Together we can get this done.