Correcting the Record on Washington State and the CRC

Evan Manvel

Over the years we’ve heard a bunch of untrue claims from backers of the costly, risky Columbia River Crossing mega-project. Luckily, dedicated citizens, researchers and the news media have done a decent, even award-winning job exposing the litany of falsehoods.

Some of the latest dubious claims came from Rep. Tobias Read on this weekend’s KGW StraightTalk:

“Let’s face it, Washington said no and we can’t launch a bridge from Oregon and land it in Washington without their participation and their legislature said no,” said (R) Mike McLane.

“Actually they didn’t say no,” said (D) Tobias Read. “Their legislature never got to vote, it was prevented by a very small minority in the Washington senate.”

Legislating is a messy activity. But surely Rep. Read has learned that when the votes clearly aren’t there for a bill, leadership never lets that bill come to a vote. Despite his claims to the contrary, the majority of the Washington Senate doesn't support the CRC. And in fact, a direct Senate vote to bring the transportation package (which included the CRC) up for a vote failed 26-21. Readers can decide which side of that is the "very small minority."

Later on the KGW show, Rep. Read claimed a letter from Washington legislators was signed by a “the majority of the house and the senate” – which is either directly false, or inane math that bunches both legislative houses into one bundle. In the Washington Senate of 49 members, the support of 24 senators (several of whom are no longer senators, and one of whom has been replaced by an anti-CRC senator) does not a majority make. And Washington requires bills to issue bonds pass by 60%, meaning the 51 House members who voted for the package and signed the letter weren't enough support from that side of the legislature, either. (There are 98 members of the House, so 59 votes are required for bonds. While a transportation package passed the House, the companion bonding bill was never voted on).

Here's what actually happened in Washington last year: after CRC funding was included in a transportation package that squeaked through the Washington House on a second try, Washington’s Senate Majority Coalition Caucus demanded the CRC be dropped from the proposed transportation package. It was the only mega-project specifically rejected by the Senate.

Unlike the other four Senate Majority requests for major changes to the package, Governor Inslee and House leadership agreed to drop the CRC, and worked to divvy up the funds previously earmarked for it. Moreover, both houses of the Washington legislature passed funding to audit the CRC. So unlike Rep. Read’s version of history, it's the Washington legislature’s support for the CRC, not the opposition to it, that ran thin.

Maybe Rep. Read just needs to revisit Schoolhouse Rock.

As Rep. McLane had to patiently explain on KGW, not even the massive, taxpayer-funded CRC spin machine can change the fact that Washington and Oregon's legislatures have two houses, or what a majority means.

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