This morning's annual Associated Press pre-legislative session forum in Olympia didn't start out too well for Seattle taxpayers. When the question came up of who would pay for the cost overruns on the troubled viaduct tunnel, the two Democrats on the first panel—House Speaker Frank Chopp and Senate Minority Leader Sharon Nelson—were noncommittal.
"I don't know," Representative Chopp (D-43) said when asked if his Seattle constituents or the state would pick up the inevitable tab from Bertha's woes. "We need to determine what occurred before determining who should pay for cost overruns," insisted Senator Nelson.
Hey... way to defend Seattle taxpayers.
The Republicans on the panel were much more sure of themselves. "That is the law," Senator Mark Schoesler (R-9) said about the original agreement that supposedly made Seattle responsible for all cost overruns on the tunnel, regardless of who was at fault. "Right now the law is the law."
Even if it's unenforceable? No, House Transportation chair Judy Clibborn (D-41) definitively (and thankfully) pronounced when the question was posed to the next panel. "Seattle is not on the hook for cost overruns on the tunnel," proclaimed Clibborn, explaining that since it is impossible to assess who actually benefits from the tunnel ("everybody" she says), the language of the existing law is unenforceable. And as an extra measure of comfort, Governor Jay Inslee later added that he suspects taxpayers won't pick up the tab at all for Bertha's problems. “Information I have is strongly suggestive that the contractor probably has responsibility for this," explained Inslee.
More on today's forum later.