UPDATE 2:20 pm: While Southwest Washington Republicans lobby against the Columbia River Crossing, Democrats unveiled a new $9.8 billion transportation bill unveiled today that contains $450 million for the CRC, The Columbian reports.
The package includes a 10 cent gas tax increase, a new annual car tab fee based on 0.7 percent of a vehicle's value, and more than $3 billion in new bonds to raise the money over 10 years.
ORIGINAL STORY: As Oregon lawmakers prepare for floor votes in both chambers on House Bill 2800, legislation that could result in Oregon borrowing $450 million for its down-payment on the $3.5 billion Columbia River Crossing project, lawmakers from up north are urging a "no" vote.
In a Feb. 19 letter (PDF) to Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) and House Minority Leader Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte), nine lawmakers from southern Washington pointed out that support for the CRC in Clark County is weak.
"Public sentiment in southwest Washington around this project is largely negative. At the ballot box, the citizens of Clark County just rejected a plan to fund light rail, which we believe is a statement of strong opposition to the light rail component of the bridge proposal. There are currently lawsuits pending over the enforcement of light rail in the county. Congresswoman Jaime Herrera-Beutler has also weighed in, expressing concern about the cost and light rail portion of the project," three senators and six representatives wrote.
House Bill 2800 contains provisions that must be met before Oregon actually funds its $450 million share. Among them is that Washington must
also approve the same amount of funding this year. "approved, authorized or committed sufficient funds" for the project (the bill does not list specific dollar amount that would be "sufficient").
Washington's legislative session ends by law no later than April 28—long before Oregon's—which was a big part of the reason HB 2800 got pushed through so early in the session.
Here's what the letter says about funding from Washington:
"We urge you and your members to take a step back, examine the flaws with the current CRC plan and ensure that Oregon is not voting on a project that the Washington legislature will not approve," the nine lawmakers wrote.
In Oregon, there's no doubt House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) has the votes to get HB 2800 through the House. It will be a closer call in the Senate, where Democrats hold a narrower 16-14 advantage and at least two Portland Democrats with safe seats—Sens. Jackie Dingfelder and Chip Shields—have previously expressed concerns about the project.
In Washington, Democrats control the House by a 55 to 43 margin but Republicans control the Senate because two Democrats agreed in December to join Republicans in a "majority coalition caucus." The first principle of that caucus is "budget sustainability and living within our means," which could make for tough sledding for CRC funding this session.