Budget questions swirl around possible repeal of climate act

By Aspen Anderson

Washington State Journal

Money to expand and upgrade the state’s ferry fleet will be included in this year’s supplemental budget, but lawmakers warn funding could go away if voters choose to repeal the Climate Commitment Act (CCA).

“If the CCA is repealed, it will have a devastating impact on transportation funding. About one third of our Move Ahead package was funded by CCA,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett.

Move Ahead Washington is a transportation plan adopted in 2022 that invests $17 billion over 16 years in projects statewide.

“If the CCA funding goes away, we still need those five new ferries, so we are going to have to find the money elsewhere… it will put it in conflict with our projects and with maintenance and preservation.”

The repeal of the CCA was proposed in a citizen initiative to the voters. Democrats say they will not take up the issue in this year’s short legislative session, allowing the initiative to be placed on the ballot in November.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said he recognizes repealing the initiative will create new challenges for the budget, but remains in strong support of a repeal. He believes getting out of the CCA would “get us back to reality.”

“If the CCA goes away, will it have an impact? Yes,” King said. “But the impact on our roads and bridges and highways, I think, is less than it would be to our transit and active transportation.”

The CCA was enacted in 2021. It implements a cap-and-trade program to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions. The program sets an emissions limit, or cap, on carbon producers and then lowers that cap over time to ensure Washington meets the greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The act has raised millions of dollars to invest in clean energy projects, but critics say it also pushed the cost of gasoline up by as much as $0.50 per gallon.

The CCA funds many projects, including allowing people 18 and younger to ride public transit for free. That would end if the voters repealed the CCA.

King would not be sad to see this project go.

“It’s not because they want to help those kids … they want to get them used to using a bus,” King said. “They want to indoctrinate them.”

“We do not always agree, but we are going to work through these decisions together,” Liias said.

King agrees this year’s budget-making has been bipartisan. He thinks they have done great things with the Washington State Patrol as the state tries to get more people to apply and increase the number of officers on the road.

In all, the Senate budget invests $31 million in new traffic safety investments in partnership with local law enforcement.

The Senate budget includes $150 million for highway system improvements and $150 million more in fish barrier removal and progress on the Interstate 405 Renton-to-Bellevue widening and express toll lane project.

The House also proposed a transportation budget. It allocates more money for the replacement of the State Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

Liias, D-Edmonds, said he believes although the cost of construction is high, he believes the price will never be lower and doesn’t favor delaying the project.

“Our transportation system is the lifeblood of our economy, and this year’s budget makes critical investments in ferries, traffic safety, and improving mobility statewide,” Liias said in a press release.

The Washington State Journal is a nonprofit news website funded by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.