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WSLC: Ideological provisions doom Senate transportation plan

(Feb. 13, 2015) — Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, released the following statement today in response to the State Senate transportation proposal released Thursday.

johnson-jeff-13The Washington State Labor Council has been working closely with legislators and other stakeholders for more than three years to secure a transportation funding package that is desperately needed by Washington’s workers, communities, employers, and families. We are pleased that the Senate transportation negotiators have come to an understanding for the need for new revenue to raise transportation standards in our state. By investing in transportation infrastructure, we will create thousands of jobs and increase our economic competitiveness domestically and internationally.

Unfortunately, this proposal ignores the clear message expressed by thousands of our state’s citizens, labor leaders, businesses, and newspaper editorial boards over the last three years — resist getting wrapped around an ideological axle by taking hostage important policy provisions that support working families and promote clean, healthy communities. The proposal introduced this afternoon asks for unproductive erosions of training opportunities for young apprentices who are desperately needed to replace an aging construction workforce. Attacks on prevailing wage rates for workers engaged in the difficult and dangerous work of building our roads, bridges, and transit systems are also unacceptable. These apprenticeship opportunities and prevailing wage standards support working families in every community in Washington State. There is no reason to juxtapose these important standards against the need for new transportation investment.

Further, the inclusion of a “poison pill” in the underlying transportation proposal to hold hostage multi-modal transportation options is unacceptable. We cannot continue to ignore the existential threat that global climate change poses, and destructive, counter-productive measures like this make it more difficult for our leaders help transition Washington state to a cleaner economic future.

Several other provisions of the proposal are also concerning. In this period of zero-sum budgeting, and the mandate to fund the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision as well as mental health infrastructure needs, the call to sweep sales tax revenue on transportation purchases only digs us in to a deeper hole. We cannot further cut our social safety net, and degrade the work of our public servants by continuing to bleed the state’s general fund.

We must also be wary of efforts to repurpose dedicated funds, like MTCA and ELSA, that underpin our ability to clean up some of the state’s dirtiest toxic waste sites.

The Washington State Labor Council will continue to work with our labor affiliates, community partners, and legislators to improve this transportation proposal. Washington cannot further delay these needed transportation projects, but we must also ensure that we are not harming Washington’s working families and communities.

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