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Locke blasts Legislature for inaction
"After a pair of Bremerton Rotary Club troubadours roasted Gov. Gary Locke Monday on guitar, Washington's chief executive then scorched the state Legislature.Locke voiced displeasure that the 105-day regular session and 30-day special session that ends Thursday had very little to show for it.Locke is dismayed by inaction on a transportation budget.We need action in the next several days, Locke told 125 Rotarians and their guests at Naval Station Bremerton's Olympic Lodge. If we don't act now, our failures will be heaped on our children and our grandchildren.Locke said the hopeless deadlock in Olympia is not so much Democrat versus Republican. It's really House vs. Senate. Locke charged the Legislature to take a vote, any vote on the 10-year, $17.2 billion transportation budget he proposed several weeks ago.Locke is trying to replace $500 million lost yearly because of I-695 at the same time maintaining an overall $1 billion annual transportation budget.Playing to his Bremerton audience, Locke said, I believe in the ferries. I love the ferries. I think they are an economic development tool and part of the tourist attraction to the region.The people here in Bremerton know how important a healthy transportation system is, he said. A delay on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry and the whole day can be lost. ... We have an aging ferry system that is in serious need of modernization.Locke has proposed:* $820 million in capital investments in the state's ferry system, including replacing four, 1920s-era ferries, as well as dock/terminal upgrades.* Continued funding for passenger-only ferries.* Providing $8 million in roadway improvement to SR-304, from SR-3 to the Bremerton Ferry Terminal (completion of the Gateway Project).* Improvement of SR-305 to SR-104 (Poulsbo toward Kingston).* Reduce proposed tolls on a new Tacoma Narrows Bridge by furnishing $50 million to match a similar amount raised by bridge users or by governments in the Tacoma region.These types of improvements don't come for free, Locke said.To pay for his transportation plan, Locke has proposed a 50 percent gross weight surcharge for trucks; 2 percent sales tax increase for new and used vehicles; and a 7-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase (4 cents in 2002, and 3 cents in 2004).Locke also spoke at length on the nation's increasing energy crisis.While he welcomed the Bush administration for proposing a new energy policy, Locke cannot embrace all aspects.Locke wants more conservation and more use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.We cannot simply dig, drill, burn and pollute our way to energy security, Locke said.Locke said the state has permitted six power plants since 1994, but none have been built. Most are liquid natural gas plants that are easily and quickly built compared to five or eight years for traditional power sources.It will take many years to explore and drill for that oil or natural gas and many years to build a pipeline to bring that oil or natural gas into our state.Locke will not support new nuclear power in Washington - not now.I encourage and support the research on new-generation nuclear plants, Locke said. But I am not going to be supporting additional nuclear power plants in our state unless we know that Hanford is being cleaned up.Locke said the state sued the Clinton administration and will soon sue the Bush administration for not cleaning up nuclear waste at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.It is an underground Chernobyl waiting to happen, Locke said.Locke said the current drought means the state needs immediate (energy) relief. Locke said the drought will be worst in the fall when the mountain snowpack has melted and reservoirs behind dams are critically low. He said the state cannot wait for power plant sources that take five to eight years to come on line, when independent power producers are overcharging energy-starved states and communities.Locke said wholesale electricity costs $16 per megawatt-hour one year ago. Two weeks ago, it cost $533 pmh.There are excessive, obscene profits being made by these independent power producers, Locke said. The governor said there is a movement nationally for limited price controls on spot energy costs. Lastly, Locke said he is for the private sector building the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge.Anything that goes wrong, any cost overruns, are borne by the private sector, Locke said of a 'design/build' concept. I'm more concerned about getting the project under way as soon as possible because people's lives have been lost on the current bridge. And anytime there is an accident, the traffic jams go all day long. "