Rep. Andrew Barkis, R-Olympia, signaled on Nov. 17 that he would back the Reprioritizing Existing Appropriations for Longevity (REAL) Act as the legislative session begins in 2022.
The REAL Act is set to improve transportation-related issues Washingtonians face that stem from things like a growing population, more vehicles on the roads, failing bridges, outdated railways, state ferry route cancellations, staffing shortages and potential transportation-related legislative actions relating to tax and fiscal management, among others, according to a news release.
Barkis is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee.
“Since becoming one of our state’s transportation budget leaders in 2019, I have been the voice for fiscal responsibility, reform and reprioritization,” Barkis said in the release. “My goals have been to keep costs down, stop more forced taxes on drivers and complete projects within existing revenue.”
He said the state should no longer rely on its gas tax for transportation funding so whole-heartedly.
“Unfortunately, for decades, transportation funding has been tied to the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees,” Barkis said. “While taxes continue to increase with each transportation package that’s enacted, collected revenues are steadily declining. There are solutions through the REAL Act to address the plateau in transportation revenue while maintaining and creating a transportation system for all Washingtonians.”
According to the release, the REAL Act is set to reprioritize and shift funding streams in transportation to improve transportation services by growing the general fund’s revenue.
The act also reprioritizes and redirects sales tax paid on motor vehicles toward the preservation and maintenance of the transportation system.
Sponsors hope the act will also reprioritize and shift funding for sales tax paid on transportation projects from the general fund to the transportation budget.
REAL Act proponents want the legislation to create a program that bridges the divide between urban and rural communities in the area of transportation safety.
It would pause the commute trip reduction program while studying the impacts of commuting and travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Working to reprioritize and shift the funds for the Safe Routes to School Program would redirect them to the general fund with a directive to better coordinate funding for safe pathways to new schools, stated the release.
One goal the REAL Act would work toward is the prevention of barriers to recruitment and employment for Washington State Ferries for women and people from minority communities.
It also seeks to recognize fish passage barrier projects as a correcting force for environmental justice concerns.
“The REAL Act is our pathway and opportunity to rejuvenate our way of thinking and move away from the antiquated and obsolete way of state budgeting,” Barkis said in the release. “I look forward to fully rolling out this approach to sustainable and equitable transportation funding with my fellow Republican colleagues in the 2022 session. I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner with legislative budget writers to fund Washington state’s needs while reimagining transportation funding — all without raising taxes and placing additional financial burdens on our citizens.”
The 2022 legislative session begins Jan. 10 and will last 60 days.