OLYMPIA… Sen. Ann Rivers is disappointed in the Washington State Attorney General Office’s support for proceeding with the multi-billion dollar Columbia River Crossing Project without any specific legislative authority. The attorney general’s opinion was expressed in a memo to the Coast Guard, which must approve any project that could affect Columbia River navigation.
“The Legislature controls the purse strings and sets policy in this state while the governor implements the policies we set,” said Rivers, R-La Center. “Each branch of government must respect the other branches’ authority for our constitutional system to function. The attorney general’s lack of respect for the Legislature’s authority will damage our ability to move forward on with the governor on important issues like transportation.”
Incredibly, the attorney general’s memo makes no mention of the transportation budget – the clearest expression of the Legislature’s intent on transportation policy in Washington. Instead, the memo argues that the governor can grant authority to the Washington State Department of Transportation to enter into agreements with Oregon to build the CRC. Rivers vehemently disagrees with the memo’s notion that WSDOT may perform work on this project so long as it is paid for by the State of Oregon. This is a direct end run around the Legislature’s authority.
Additionally, the memo outlines a plan where Oregon would collect tolls on the CRC without the Washington Legislature’s approval although the attorney general has, so far, not cited any legal authority that would allow this plan to move forward because there is none.
“I will not put the fate of my people who must cross that river to work in the hands of Oregon’s Legislature – they are already giving 9 percent of their paychecks – that’s more than enough,” Rivers said. “This frightening plan is nothing short of taxation without representation. Oregon would set toll rates and collect billions of dollars in tolls over a period of 30 to 40 years, but we, in Washington, would have little or no ability to influence rates by expressing our displeasure to any elected official in our state through the ballot box. This is simply wrong and totally unconstitutional.”
Rivers and the other leaders of the Senate’s Majority Coalition Caucus – Sens. Rodney Tom, D-Medina; Curtis King, R-Yakima; and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville – signed a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, urging him not to follow the scheme outlined in the memo, and warning him that legal action may result in order to protect the Legislature’s authority if this plan becomes policy.