Pandemic budget savings options frequently asked questions

October 2020 update

WSDOT has submitted its Supplement Budget (through June 30, 2021) as well as the 2021-23 biennium budget proposal. Those are being reviewed by the Governor’s Office and the Office of Financial Management and we will post updates in December once the Governor’s overall proposed state budget is announced.

Previous budget FAQs below:

The Office of Financial Management estimated transportation revenue losses to the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic could total as much as $100 million per month. OFM asked all state agencies to prepare options reflecting a 15% cut in their budgets. For WSDOT, this translates to a $947 million reduction in the 2019-2021 biennium. Projected losses will require agency-wide expenditure adjustments, including reductions in both the capital and operating activities of the department.

WSDOT submitted its options to OFM on June 1. It is important to remember these options are not final and because a reduction is listed does not necessarily mean it will happen or happen at the level shown.  But, there could be service and staff reductions at every level of the organization.

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions. We are early in the process so some of the answers may change as we get more information and begin to make decisions on expenditure adjustments. We encourage you to check back frequently for updates.

Updated: June 19, 2020 (new additions/updates listed below)

You will find answers to questions grouped in the following areas:

Questions?

If you have additional questions that are not answered here, please send them to us at BudgetSuggestions@wsdot.wa.gov or consider contacting your human resources representative (pdf 407 kb). We will research and post questions and answers and update existing questions as we learn more.

   

New additions/ updates for this week (added June 19)

Added link to newly created Pandemic related furlough FAQs page.

What did we learn from the revenue forecast? 

  • The latest forecast (June 2020) saw a drop in projected state transportation revenues of $681 million over the next three years compared to the February forecast, which the legislature used to develop the department’s 2020 supplemental budget
  • We must also deal with the lasting challenges of I-976 in the next biennium, which removed another $661 million. 
  • Therefore, the total revenue loss to address over the next three years is $1.3 billion, of which we will need to address a $483 million deficit this biennium. 

 

What were the revenue losses compared to the February 2020 forecast?

  • With the drops in traffic volumes during the pandemic, fuel tax revenue is down some by $268 million or 5% from the last forecast over the next three years due to gas tax collections coming in below the previous forecast. 
  • Washington State Ferries revenue is down sizably by $127 million or 24% from the last forecast over the next three years. 
  • Tolling revenue is hit hard from recent COVID-19 shutdowns. Over the next three years, toll revenue is down $170 million or 28% compared to the last projection. 

Looking out beyond 2021-23, it will take three to six years to recover the revenue loss during this pandemic and the duration of that recovery varies by revenue source. It’s also important to note that we take the Governor’s “Safe Start” phased re-opening of our state seriously. A resurgence of COVID-19 is bad in so many respects to include seeing further negative impacts to state revenue sources in the future.

 

Have you considering just furloughing employees for eight hours each pay period to save money?


On June 17 Gov. Inslee announced furloughs for many state employees. More details are available on the new Pandemic related furlough FAQs page, which will be updated as we get further details.

 

If revenue from gas, tolls, fares, etc. returns to normal – will the agency reduce the amount of program and job cuts?


The department is in a challenging budget position because we need to address the future funding losses from I-976 as well as the immediate losses from the pandemic. The I-976 losses extended well beyond the 2019-2021 biennium. While a return to pre-COVID traffic and revenue levels would help ease the short term effect on our system, losses during the pandemic still exist and the Legislature will still need to find a way to balance the budget for the next biennium and beyond. 

 

What happens if Congress provides some relief to backfill the budget gap? We will still need to have job cuts this year? What about in the future?

If Congress provides some relief to fill the budget gap, the reductions needed depend greatly on how much federal funding we receive, the June revenue forecast and future revenues. 

Congressional funding could reduce the total amount of reductions needed but there are many factors at play – including how much federal funding would be received and whether it was earmarked for particular areas. Budget reduction needs also would depend on the June 17 revenue forecast and future revenue and the Legislature will still need to find way to balance the budget next biennium and beyond.

 

How long are these cuts expected to last?

The duration is unknown given that much about the pandemic and society’s response to it are still unknown. Some of these proposed changes, though, are transformational as a way to make the agency more flexible overall, and because there are still I-976 funding cuts to address. Some service decisions will be affected by rider demand but that is one of several factors including cost to operate the service. Bottom line, the proposed cuts, if enacted, should not be viewed as “only for one biennium.”

 

If traffic volumes don’t return to normal, and people are encouraged to avoid carpooling with people they don’t live with, or buses are only half full to accommodate physical distancing, will you open up the carpool lanes to all drivers? 

Altering HOV lanes is not a quick decision, nor is it one WSDOT could make on its own. In the near term there is no rationale for an emergency temporary change because it would not make a measurable improvement in roadway performance. As the economy recovers, we’re focused on being prepared for an uptick in traffic when people begin returning to work, especially if that means fewer people taking transit. As congestion returns the HOV lanes will be needed and even in the short term, transit continues to use the lanes. Before we would consider making any decision to alter operating rules in HOV lanes we’d seek guidance from the Federal Highway Administration about what type of changes would be legally possible and provide affected users, stakeholders and agencies a chance to weigh in.

 

If our economy is in the dumps, and fewer people are working or have spare cash, will you suspend tolls?

We understand these unprecedented times have created hardships for everyone; however, we cannot suspend tolling as state law requires toll revenue be used to cover a variety of costs for our toll facilities, including operational and maintenance costs, and construction bond repayment. Furthermore, we alone cannot make the decision to suspend tolls. Any decision to suspend tolling would need to come from the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) and/or the state Legislature.

 

Why not just eliminate a mega program to balance our budget? 

Mega projects are primarily funded with bonds issued by the state Treasurer and then repaid with gas tax receipts. The Legislature identifies those capital projects that are eligible for bond funding. If a project is cancelled, the bonds cannot be used elsewhere without Legislative approval. Bond proceeds are not used to pay for transportation operating costs and thus are not available to balance cuts elsewhere in the agency. 

That said, there are some agency administrative costs to large programs and every cost savings option is being explored. When evaluating a project we’d use the following criteria. If the answer is “yes” to one or more of the questions, that work would be prioritized to continue where possible: 

  • Does the work perform a legal or regulatory required function?
  • Does the work produce products required for mission-critical statewide transportation system operations?
  • Does the work effectively prevent and respond to transportation system incidents?
  • Are the activities considered essential to receive or maintain federal funds?
  • Are the activities funded by other partner agencies that have confirmed their financial support?
  • Is the work critical to the delivery of the fish passage program? 

 

Washington State Ferries specific questions

Can you cut administrative/HQ staff to save employees providing direct service in the fleet?

As an operations-based agency, more than 75% of Washington State Ferries’ budget is spent on direct service, with 5% spent on HQ administrative costs. Reductions as part of this exercise cannot be reached without making cuts to service and operations. However, any reductions will not be limited to operations. There are also cuts to administrative costs in this proposal. This will happen in conjunction with the continued hiring freeze, in collaboration with our labor partners, and by working collectively in finding ways to reduce expenditures across the board.

 

Will WSF prioritize its domestic service over its international service to Canada?

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, there is uncertainty on when governments will reopen their borders and this service will be restored. Though it is an international route, sailings traveling between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C. also provide domestic service before and after its international run(s).  This service must be considered as part of any discussion of eliminating the route, which can only be done with legislative direction.

 

Will service to island communities with no other options be prioritized over routes that have access to alternative transportation options?

When analyzing service reductions, WSF will weigh a number of factors. The availability of other possible transportation options in a community will be one of those factors. 

 

Will there be any engagement with communities about service reductions?

We understand the severity of what these early proposals could mean to the local communities we serve, and should any of them move forward, will discuss them through public outreach and with our 13 Ferry Advisory Committees. State code requires WSF conduct public outreach before major service changes, and reductions require approval by the state Legislature. WSF will share information about community engagement opportunities and how public input will be considered in the decision-making process.

 

Why does WSF have to cut 20% of cost instead of 10- 15%?  Wouldn’t a lower percentage of cuts save additional jobs and better support routes?

WSDOT as an agency took a proactive approach when it was clear there would be severe fiscal challenges ahead due to COVID-19 and its effects on the state and national economy. Divisions were directed to chart how they would reduce their overall budgets by a more conservative 20%. OFM later asked all state agencies to submit plans on how they would cut 15% as part of this exercise. However, WSF submitted its original work as part of the initial 20% reductions that was requested internally. These reductions are only the first steps in a long process. We will know more as the governor and legislature give direction on funding adjustments due to the unprecedented decrease in state revenues.

 

How did you make the proposed decision to reduce service on particular a route?

A. WSF approached these proposals using a set of guiding principles of prioritizing safety and reliability, complying with federal and state requirements, protecting vulnerable populations, and emphasizing system preservation over expansion. 

In conjunction with these principles, WSF will use route data and metrics such as ridership, route utilization, and ticket sales; operating costs such as vessel maintenance, labor, and fuel; and administrative costs. Any proposals for service reductions are preliminary, and final decisions will be made only after consultation with the public and the legislature.

 

How much relief funding has WSF received and will WSF be receiving additional funding to balance the deficit?

WSF received a $39.2 million grant from Federal Transit Administration as part of the CARES Act. It is unknown whether we will be receiving additional funding. Congress is considering an infrastructure relief bill, and that may include some Federal Highway Administration construction funding. However, nothing is certain at this point.

 

If there are service reductions, when will they be implemented and how long will they remain in place?

It’s still very early in this process and there’s still a lot of uncertainty on whether any service reductions will take place and what level of reductions would be needed. We also don't know how long it will take to implement any cuts. Any service reductions will take time to put into place as we must consider input from labor partners, Ferry Advisory Committees, stakeholders, and the public. Some decisions will also require legislative approval. Therefore, barring any unforeseen setbacks, it would likely take a minimum of 60 days to implement any adjustments. The timeline on if service, once cut, would return, is uncertain. 

 

What will happen to all the vessels and crews that are not supporting a route?

The current proposals were made in reaction to direction from OFM.  When we have final direction on how the governor and legislature will deal with the budget deficit, we will work with our labor partners, non-represented employees, and the public to address any route downsizings or eliminations.  How our employees are impacted by any service reductions will be the key part of this effort.


Effects on revenue 

What did WSDOT provide to the Office of Financial Management?
First, it’s important to note the document we provided to OFM is not a formal proposal and it’s not final. The options provided do not necessarily reflect the priorities of the Governor or the agency. Just because a program or service is listed does not mean the reduction will actually happen or happen at the level shown.

We provided OFM with options to address the drop in revenue for this biennium. The approach proposed is in addition to actions already taken to implement the Governor’s directive to freeze hiring activities, personal services contracts, and major equipment purchases.

The pandemic is affecting our state economy as a whole, not just WSDOT. All state agencies are looking at ways to save money and examining what cuts may be necessary.

 

Will there be layoffs or furloughs?
The Governor and the WSDOT executive team consider WSDOT employees to be our greatest resource. While it’s still too early to know the full extent of cuts necessary to control costs, we must plan and prepare for current projections and that includes staff reductions. Our proposal to OFM identifies 900 to 1,200 fulltime equivalent positions that could be eliminated agency-wide if those specific reduction options were implemented. The agency has approximately 6,550 permanent employees and 380 non-permanent employees. On average, WSDOT loses about 13% of its employees each year through attrition.

These discussions and plans are difficult and we know the news is distressing. We have faced hard times before as an agency and we will once again work together to minimize the pain as much as possible and keep our transportation system functioning for the people of this state.

The extent of cuts, and layoffs, will depend on many factors including whether the federal government backfills all or part of our revenue shortfall, future revenue, traffic projections, and how legislators and the Governor’s office will prioritize our work. Right now, we are doing everything we can to lessen the effect on our workforce, but there’s no way to close the budget gap without also reducing staff.

On June 17 Gov. Inslee announced furloughs for many state employees. Initial information is available on the Pandemic Related Furlough FAQs page, which will be updated as more details become available.

 

If revenue from gas, tolls, fares, etc. returns to normal – will the agency reduce the amount of program and job cuts?


The department is in a challenging budget position because we need to address the future funding losses from I-976 as well as the immediate losses from the pandemic. The I-976 losses extended well beyond the 2019-2021 biennium. While a return to pre-COVID traffic and revenue levels would help ease the short term effect on our system, losses during the pandemic still exist and the Legislature will still need to find a way to balance the budget for the next biennium and beyond. 

 

Do the proposed cuts include programs and projects?

Yes, the entire agency is facing proposed reductions and cuts.  We cannot close the revenue gap without involving all parts of the agency. These are not easy decisions, but we must prepare for this reduction in funding in order to continue our important work as an agency.

 

What happens if Congress provides some relief to backfill the budget gap? We will still need to have job cuts this year? What about in the future?

If Congress provides some relief to fill the budget gap, the reductions needed depend greatly on how much federal funding we receive, the June revenue forecast and future revenues. 

Congressional funding could reduce the total amount of reductions needed but there are many factors at play – including how much federal funding would be received and whether it was earmarked for particular areas. Budget reduction needs also would depend on the June 2020 revenue forecast and future revenue and the Legislature will still need to find way to balance the budget next biennium and beyond.

 

How long are these cuts expected to last?

The duration is unknown given that much about the pandemic and society’s response to it are still unknown. Some of these proposed changes, though, are transformational as a way to make the agency more flexible overall, and because there are still I-976 funding cuts to address. Some service decisions will be affected by rider demand but that is one of several factors including cost to operate the service. Bottom line, the proposed cuts, if enacted, should not be viewed as “only for one biennium.”


Reductions in force 

How will I know if my job is at risk?

Since the proposal is not final and it may not reflect Governor Inslee’s priorities, it’s too early to determine specifically which positions may be at risk. With June 2020 revenue forecast released, the Governor’s office and Office of Financial Management are now reviewing how it affects each agency in the state. A Congressional allocation to backfill funding gaps may also affect any proposed reduction in force.

 

When will a proposed reduction in force begin?

Since this options are still under review, we do not have a timeline. A large measure of this depends on whether the Governor calls the Legislature back for a special session or whether the Governor and OFM directs agencies to implement additional reductions prior to the regular session.

 

Of the proposed fulltime employee reductions, how many are positions that are already open and won’t be filled?
Open positions must be approved by a board made up of Assistant Secretaries and then a request is submitted for OFM for approval. Some open positions may be filled, while others are not. While we don’t have exact numbers yet, open and unfilled positions will be considered when making layoff decisions.

 

How can I find out where I rank on the seniority list for a reduction in force?

Seniority for full time employees is defined as the employee’s length of unbroken state service. Seniority for part-time or on-call employees is based on the actual hours worked, according to definitions in the Washington Federation of State Employees and collective bargaining agreements. Check with your human resources representative (pdf 407 kb) for your seniority date.

 

Can my seniority transfer to another state agency?

Generally, yes, provided you have not had a break in state service. Your seniority date is your unbroken state service. Your human resources representative (pdf 407 kb) can help identify your seniority date if you left state service for a period of time and then returned.

 

Can I still be laid off if I’m on family or medical leave?

Yes. This is outlined in the collective bargaining agreements.

 

Who decides the dates of when people will be laid off?

Once a layoff decision is made, collective bargaining agreements and the Human Resources Desk Manual document the process to be followed, including notice provisions.

 

If I receive a layoff notice, how much time will I have between the notification and my last day?

Again, it’s important to remember that any reduction in force is still in the early stages and the extent depends on a number of factors including federal backfill, the June revenue forecast, and future revenues. However, an employee will receive a minimum of 15 days’ notice. Before that notification occurs, Human Resources will determine whether any layoff options are available to the employee in accordance with applicable collective bargaining agreements and/or the Human Resources Desk Manual, Chapter 17: Layoff (pdf 183 kb).

 

Can I appeal a layoff or position elimination?

Yes, in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreements or Chapter 17 of the Human Resources Desk Manual (pdf 183 kb).

 

Could an employee at another agency bump me? Could I bump an employee at another agency?
Employees in exempt positions, who previously worked at another state agency, do have the potential to bump back to their previous agency. It’s not common but it does happen.

 

Are there layoff lists that I can get my name on to help me search for another position with a state agency?
There are resources available to employees if they are laid off. The General Government Transition Pool (GGTP) is an additional referral program for general government employees who have been laid off or at risk of being laid off. Names of employees in the GGTP are referred to state agencies as jobs become available. Check with your human resources representative for information.

 

Have you considering just furloughing employees for eight hours each pay period to save money?


On June 17 Gov. Inslee announced furloughs for many state employees starting June 29 through Nov. 30. More information is available at the Pandemic Related Furlough FAQ page.


Healthcare, retirement, sick leave, vacation and personal holiday/leave days 

What happens to my sick, vacation and personal holiday/leave days?

Any outstanding vacation leave is paid out on the last paycheck. Personal holiday and personal leave days have no cash value. Sick leave balance will be reinstated if an employee returns to state service within five years of separation.

 

Will the state offer early retirement to eligible employees to reduce the number of employees losing their job?

The state is not offering early retirement options for employees at this time. However, OFM has authorized agencies to establish retirement or separation incentive programs. This is still under review by WSDOT and nothing has been finalized yet. 

 

Will the agency offer healthcare coverage if an employee is laid off?

Healthcare coverage is provided on a month-to-month basis, provided an employee has eight hours of paid time to cover the employee’s portion of their insurance premiums. If an employee leaves state service on the first of the month, they would have coverage through the end of the month. For additional information, please visit the Washington Health Care Authority website.

 

What happens to my retirement plan if I’m laid off?

Please visit the Department of Retirement Systems website to learn more about options available to employees who retire or leave state service for any reason.

 

If proposed layoffs and reductions in service only addresses the budget gap for the 2019-2021 biennium, will there be cuts in jobs, projects and maintenance in the coming years?

Because our proposal to OFM is still only a proposal and not final, it’s too early to say. The Legislature will need to address revenue losses during the next legislative session which is scheduled to begin on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

 

Deferred hiring process 

Will open positions created by retirements or other employees departing be filled? What is the process or criteria to submit a request to fill a position?

WSDOT halted new hires at the beginning of the pandemic, although there is a hiring exemption process. The hiring board of Assistant Secretaries decides whether a position is critical to agency work, if there are barriers to distributing the workload to existing staff, and if there are consequences to not filling the position. The request is then submitted to the Office of Financial Management for approval.

 

How many open positions does WSDOT have?

Open positions are listed on the WSDOT website. Between April, when the hiring freeze went into effect and June 5, 2020, we reduced our overall headcount by 24 positions. Only positions approved by the Assistant Secretaries, state human resources and OFM will be filled.

 

How long will the hiring deferral last?

You should expect the hiring deferral to continue for the rest of the biennium.


Washington State Ferries 

What will this mean for existing ferry service?

The vast majority of WSF’s budget is spent on operations making it impossible to close the $63 million gap OFM has asked the agency to resolve without a reduction in service. It’s still very early in a highly fluid process that is reliant on several variables, mainly the exact dollar amount that will need to be cut. Therefore, it’s too soon to say what exactly the cuts will be without a better grasp on the hole we need to fill. However, the needed cuts will require a reduction in the service we’re able to provide.

 

Will any routes be closed completely?

There’s the possibility that some routes may be eliminated, but there’s no way to know the extent of the reductions needed without first knowing how much money needs to be cut. We will be working closely with each communities’ Ferry Advisory Committees, the public at large and state lawmakers to be transparent about what will be required of WSF to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.

 

How many trips per day will eliminate from each route? How will you determine that?

Reducing service system-wide will require an overhaul of the existing schedule to ensure that it aligns with communities’ needs and the needs of our other transportation partners. Without knowing how many vessels will remain in our fleet and where they will be assigned, it’s hard to know how many sailings will be affected on a specific route. This will be a challenging process and our priority throughout it will be to continue providing minimal essential service to most routes. Ridership, the age and condition of a boat, a community’s access to other means of transportation and the final budget shortfall are just a few variables that will dictate the decision making process.

 

Are there priority routes that won’t be affected – or will every route see at least some reductions?

Our goal is to maintain at least some level of service on most routes. We will make any needed reductions as equitably as possible, understanding that we must keep service to island communities with no other practical means of transportation.

 

How many Ferries employees will be affected by these cuts?

Up to 400 WSF employees could be affected if these early proposed budget reductions are implemented. This is a daunting number, and the discussions surrounding plans that will affect this many employees are difficult. We will work together to lower the number of affected employees as much as possible as we strive to continue to provide reliable service to the communities throughout our system.

 

With so many unions, how will any changes to service be applied evenly?

We have kept all 11 of our union partners informed on the service challenges that we may be facing and will continue to provide information about any changes that may be necessary. WSF will adhere to our collective bargaining agreements should there be any service adjustments.

 

Will service reductions go in place immediately or over time?
All the service cuts would be on-going, not one-time.  And, it must be noted that the lost revenue resulting from these cuts has not yet been estimated.  The loss of revenue from the cuts would amplify the need for even greater cost savings.


Projects and operations 

Will there be any reductions in programs and services?

There will be reductions across the agency – and across other state and local agencies. Some of these may not happen – or happen to a lesser extent – if traffic and revenue projects improve or federal backfill funding is received, but we must plan for cuts in order to be prepared. No plan is finalized, we have shared this information to help OFM, the Governor and the Legislature consider how best to move the state forward.

 

Which programs/projects are going to be cut or delayed? Who makes those decisions?

We do not have a list of specific projects or programs that may be cut or delayed since we are still early in the proposal process. The document to OFM proposed:

  • Delaying the addition of $320 million in new assets to the system and affect over 300 positions. WSDOT should focus first on the operation, maintenance and preservation of existing assets. New assets require additional ongoing investments and staff resources to operate and maintain in a state of good repair.
  • Implementing $129 million in operational changes designed to position the organization to be more resilient and nimble. These changes include prioritizing the use of technology and consolidation of activities to allow for smaller facility and fleet footprints as well as service reductions in Washington State Ferries, maintenance and Amtrak Cascades and affect over 600 positions.

WSDOT’s budget would see service and staff reductions at every level of the organization within core project delivery programs and operating programs. We continue to have conversations with the Governor’s office, OFM, and legislators. Ultimately, executive leadership will make the decisions after receiving input from senior management and regions.

The federal government may also backfill all or some of the revenue shortfall.

 

Will projects that haven’t gone to ad yet be cut/eliminated/deferred?

We have not identified specific projects that will be cut or deferred. The proposal to OFM calls for delaying the addition of new assets to the highway system so that we can focus on preserving and maintaining our existing system. We’ll be in a better position to provide answers on new projects once we receive the June 2020 revenue forecast, have direction from the Governor’s Office, and a decision on federal funds. This analysis likely won’t be complete until late July.

 

Can we put the fish passage program on hold or delay those projects instead of reducing staff and cutting projects that actually benefit drivers?

WSDOT is under a court order to restore fish passage. While we will carefully evaluate each fish passage project, there are legal obligations and court-ordered deadlines that require continuation of the work.

 

What kind of highway maintenance could be eliminated?

WSDOT maintains 7,000 miles of state highways and more than 3,500 bridges. With a smaller budget, we will need to focus most preventative maintenance work on National Highway System routes, which includes interstates and state or local roads considered important to the nation’s economy, defense and mobility. But, even these routes may see some reductions in maintenance.  

The proposal to OFM states staff cuts and reductions in maintenance activities statewide will be needed. The agency will not be able to maintain current service and condition levels. The critical backlog of preventive maintenance work will fall even farther behind.

Many state roads will not be maintained to current standards.

  • Some deteriorating or damaged bridges may be closed if there is an alternate route available.
  • Paving will be delayed, resulting in rougher roads and longer travel times.
  • Other bridges may have load restriction placed on them, meaning freight, agricultural and other heavy vehicles may need to use detour routes.

 

What happens if highway infrastructure is damaged, will it be repaired?

Safety remains a priority, and especially the safety of the traveling public. Repairs will continue, though some may be delayed or deferred based on the level of urgency and the availability of alternate routes.

 

If traffic volumes don’t return to normal, and people are encouraged to avoid carpooling with people they don’t live with, or buses are only half full to accommodate physical distancing, will you open up the carpool lanes to all drivers? 

Altering HOV lanes is not a quick decision, nor is it one WSDOT could make on its own. In the near term there is no rationale for an emergency temporary change because it would not make a measurable improvement in roadway performance. As the economy recovers, we’re focused on being prepared for an uptick in traffic when people begin returning to work, especially if that means fewer people taking transit. As congestion returns the HOV lanes will be needed and even in the short term, transit continues to use the lanes. Before we would consider making any decision to alter operating rules in HOV lanes we’d seek guidance from the Federal Highway Administration about what type of changes would be legally possible and provide affected users, stakeholders and agencies a chance to weigh in.

 

If our economy is in the dumps, and fewer people are working or have spare cash, will you suspend tolls?

We understand these unprecedented times have created hardships for everyone; however, we cannot suspend tolling as state law requires toll revenue be used to cover a variety of costs for our toll facilities, including operational and maintenance costs, and construction bond repayment. Furthermore, we alone cannot make the decision to suspend tolls. Any decision to suspend tolling would need to come from the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) and/or the state Legislature.

 

Why not just eliminate a mega program to balance our budget? 

Mega projects are primarily funded with bonds issued by the state Treasurer and then repaid with gas tax receipts. The Legislature identifies those capital projects that are eligible for bond funding. If a project is cancelled, the bonds cannot be used elsewhere without Legislative approval. Bond proceeds are not used to pay for transportation operating costs and thus are not available to balance cuts elsewhere in the agency. 

That said, there are some agency administrative costs to large programs and every cost savings option is being explored. When evaluating a project we’d use the following criteria. If the answer is “yes” to one or more of the questions, that work would be prioritized to continue where possible: 

  • Does the work perform a legal or regulatory required function?
  • Does the work produce products required for mission-critical statewide transportation system operations?
  • Does the work effectively prevent and respond to transportation system incidents?
  • Are the activities considered essential to receive or maintain federal funds?
  • Are the activities funded by other partner agencies that have confirmed their financial support?
  • Is the work critical to the delivery of the fish passage program? 

 

Questions?

Do you have a question that isn’t answered here? Please send them to us at BudgetSuggestions@wsdot.wa.gov or consider contacting your human resources representative (pdf 407 kb). We will research questions, post answers and update existing questions as we learn more.