Put transportation first, Sheldon says

As Legislature adjourns, Sheldon opposes taxes, budget; votes to keep transportation package alive

To see video of floor speech, click here.

OLYMPIA – As the Washington Legislature prepared to adjourn its 2021 regular session Sunday, state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, voted against the operating budget, a new state income tax, and a high-cost fuel-standards measure, but said he remains hopeful lawmakers will return to Olympia to deal with transportation issues.

Sheldon cast a vote in favor of cap-and-trade legislation, however, noting that the carbon-reduction program will not be launched unless lawmakers reach agreement on a new transportation funding package. “Our roads have been neglected for far too long, and we needed to break the logjam in the Legislature to move transportation forward.”

Lawmakers worked through the weekend, resolving differences with the House on the year’s biggest bills, ultimately adjourning at 6:10 p.m.

Sheldon noted this year’s capital budget provides a historic boost for deployment of broadband Internet state, a major issue for rural districts. That bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

But Sheldon said he is dismayed by the heavy burden of taxation imposed by this year’s Legislature. Majority Democrats this year passed an income tax on capital gains that could expanded to the middle class if it survives court challenges. Other tax bills included increases in cell phone taxes and legal-document recording fees. Meanwhile, the operating budget dramatically expands state spending.

Sheldon voted with Republicans against those measures, as well as the fuel-standards bill, because it would reduce emissions only slightly, at a very high cost to consumers.

Sheldon, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee since 1998, said he cast his vote for the cap-and-trade measure to pave the way for a deal on transportation in the months ahead.

“That’s really our biggest piece of unfinished business,” he said. “If we don’t reach agreement on transportation, there’s no cap-and-trade. For rural districts like mine, our road network is vital, and we need to make sure there is adequate funding for maintenance, preservation and new construction. In the current legislative climate, passage of the cap and trade bill was a necessary first step.”

In remarks on the Senate floor Saturday evening as the cap-and-trade measure was debated, Sheldon said efforts to reduce carbon appear inevitable. He noted Washington lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 forcing the shutdown of coal plants throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“I think people are accepting renewables like solar and wind, and even non-emitting nuclear,” he said. “We’re seeing things change very fast. And I think market factors will come to bear on prices. I think that industry is already adapting to these changes that are coming, and I see the change in viewpoints of many citizens across Washington about our environment and the particulate matter that is in the air – all of the things that matter about health.

“As we continue this change into the future, I think it is going to be dramatic, inevitable and [will be] supported by our children and grandchildren.”