Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Everett Rotary Club, Everett Chamber, Snohomish County Committee for Improved Transportation (joint meeting)
February 19, 2002

Thank you for that kind introduction. I’m honored to be here.

I’m delighted to be in Everett. I continue to be drawn back to Snohomish County. I don’t know how much of that pull illustrates the importance of this region, and how much reflects the coercive, arm-twisting power of Bob Drewel and Ed Hansen! Actually, it’s a blend of both: This is a vital region of our state that is represented by some tireless advocates -- advocates who recognize that the future of our children and our grandchildren rests on the progress we make in solving our transportation mess.

Now, that linkage might sound exaggerated -- tackling traffic gridlock translating into a brighter future for our children. But we all bear witness to a transportation “ripple effect:” Poor roads mean a poor quality of life. Period. A poor quality of life repels business, which takes away opportunities for our children to thrive and prosper.

I’m inclined to draw a flow chart complete with arrows -- although I imagine Bob Drewel has already done that! How about an equation that reads simply: No transportation improvements = no sonic cruiser?

Of course, we’ve heard echoes of this before. Last year when I spoke I said transportation was the number-one issue facing our state and that we had to take immediate action. Now, nearly 12 months later, the message is the same but our economic climate is more distressed and the consequences of inaction even more grave.

As Yogi Berra says, “it’s déjà vu all over again!”

Two hours ago, our state revenue forecast was released. There is some good news: My advisers claim that the sun will set in the West tonight. Mount Rainier will not erupt -- at least not this month. But the numbers are grim and speak for themselves: Our official state revenue forecast went down by another $247 million.

That is on top of the November revision with an $813 million decline in the state income as the economic fallout of the September 11 terrorist attacks took hold.

That means we’re now looking at a $1.6 billion deficit in the state budget for the current biennium.

And there may be some more bad news tomorrow when we’ll hear the latest forecast for enrollment in public schools and medical costs for the elderly, the poor and prisoners.

These official revenue forecasts are the numbers the Legislature and my office must use in preparing state budgets. Today’s revenue forecast will mean more painful budget cuts -- in addition to those I proposed in my budget recommendations two months ago.

The state House of Representatives and the state Senate are preparing their own proposals. I’m anxious to see them. My rewrite of the state budget to cope with the deficit did not require a general tax increase. It is still my objective that we balance the budget without a general tax increase.

As we grapple with immediate state budget problems, I want to stress how important it is that we not lose sight of our long-term objectives. That means we’ve got to pass a long-term transportation plan and enact the recommendations of our Washington Competitiveness Council. Both are critical to the long-term success of our state economy. It’s as simple at that.

For we will rebound. But the long-term economy depends on actions we take now!

Thankfully, Everett now has bragging rights on a new transportation gem -- the Everett Station. I was honored to attend the station’s dedication a couple of weeks ago and I hope all of you have an opportunity to visit that marvelous facility.

Everett Station will be a focal point for multi-modal transportation: local transit, regional transit, commuter trains, Amtrak, Greyhound. It also testifies to the value and power of regional partnerships. Two grants from our Washington State Transportation Improvement Board provided $4 million for this project.

And Everett Station will be more than a transportation hub -- it will be a destination point. It will also be a higher education center for job training and graduate courses offered by the UW, Western and Central.

With all the debate about how to address our transportation problems, Everett Station is a striking example of how work should be done -- on time and on budget, and working in partnership with federal, state and local governments, along with our various transit agencies.

Thankfully, we’ve seen some improvements and movement on transportation since I spoke here last year. A number of reforms include:

  • Permit streamlining
  • Design-build contracting (including ferry procurement reform)
  • Advanced right-of-way acquisition
  • And an omnibus transportation reform act that I requested and signed into law on January 30th.

Within the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed additional progress:

  • The House and Senate’s passage of differing regional transportation bills
  • The release of a $5.5 billion House Republican transportation plan, which includes a 7-cent gas tax increase.
  • House Democrats are expected to release a $6-8 billion revenue package that may include an 8-cent gas tax.

We are also creating a far more efficient Department of Transportation and we are taking steps to make Washington state a better place to do business.

Now we have new ways for us to measure the performance of the Department of Transportation to make sure the department is accountable for its decisions and actions.

There are opportunities to contract out with the private sector for construction services to help ensure rapid project delivery.
We are taking several steps to improve prevailing wage survey techniques so there is more fairness and accuracy in wages paid for transportation projects.

We are using an array of efficiency and reform tools to get the most bang for the buck in transportation investment, preservation and maintenance.

Indeed, as I’m sure you’ve already heard --our Competitiveness Council says, without mincing words, that our terrible transportation system is the biggest single threat to the state’s healthy business climate.

Two billion dollars a year is the cost of the time we waste stuck in traffic.

Now it is time for the Legislature to pass a statewide transportation plan and send it to me for my signature!

What would this mean for folks here in Snohomish County? If the Legislature embraces my 10-year transportation plan -- as I hope it will -- we’ll be seeing some major on-the-ground improvements right away. They include:

  • The SR 2/SR 522 Monroe Bypass Project: A $48 million, two-mile construction project to allow through traffic to bypass downtown Monroe.
  • We’ll finish the HOV lanes on I-5 from SR526 to US 2: $158 million, five-mile project to finish design and construction of north- and south- bound HOV lanes.
  • We’ll build a new Mukilteo Terminal that is multimodal and provide initial planning/design funding for the Edmonds multimodal terminal.
  • SR 9 improvements near Mill Creek: $5.4 million for the SR9 corridor improvement project, including construction of new through lanes, turn lanes and other improvements to several intersections.
  • SR 96 connector between SR 9 and I-5 near Mill Creek: $10 million, 3.5-mile project to connect I-5 with fast-growing SR 9 corridor.

You know that this doesn’t need to be simply a wish list -- it can be a reality list.

Working with business, labor and the Legislature, I have led efforts to make Washington a place where businesses want to locate or expand. During my administration I’ve cut more than $1 billion in businesses taxes, expanded and promoted exports, advanced workforce training and worked to help our rural communities attract more business investment.

When our state’s Competitiveness Council delivered its final report last December, I promised to put it to work. I’m focusing first on recommendations that will give us a running start to improve Washington’s business climate while protecting our great state’s quality of life. We are aggressively implementing key recommendations in each of the main areas the council addressed: taxes and fees, regulatory and permitting issues, physical infrastructure, human capital and innovation, and benchmarks and performance measures.

Taxes and Fees
I made two legislative proposals to improve the fairness of our tax system: one will clarify the current law on the business and occupation tax deduction of investment income; the other will reform municipal taxation requiring uniformity and eliminating the possibility of double taxation of businesses by local governments. These have been approved by legislative committees and await action on the floor of the state House of Representatives this week.

I have directed the Department of Revenue to continue working with stakeholders to achieve greater clarity in the administration of the manufacturing, machinery and equipment sales tax exemption.

Regulatory and Permitting Issues
The council sounded an alarm over bureaucratic red tape surrounding land-use regulation and permitting. While retaining my commitment to environmental protection, I have directed state agencies to identify methods for accomplishing more streamlined, objective and predictable permitting and regulatory processes. My intention is to reduce the time and money it takes for projects that meet our environmental standards to obtain permits by creating a coordinated system. And we already are making progress on such issues as delegating air-permitting authority and expediting water rights.

Paul Isaki, whom I appointed as special assistant for business and regulatory reform, has developed a work plan for regulatory reform. Ecology is benchmarking its permitting process and permit-streamlining pilot projects are in development. And I support several bills currently being considered that would support the Permit Assistance Center, develop permit-streamlining procedures and review the Environmental Excellence Program.

The great philosopher Groucho Marx once noted that, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”

Today we resolve to prove Groucho wrong. Let’s make our transportation and our Competitiveness Council plan work -- for our children and our grandchildren.

Thank you.
Related Links:
- Washington Competitiveness Council
- Everett Chamber of Commerce
- Everett Rotary Club
- Everett Station

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