Comparing the views of the state attorney general and city attorney on state law, and what it means for Seattle
It is worth taking a close look at what our city attorney, Pete Holmes, and the state attorney general, Rob McKenna, have to say on the state law that caps the state's contribution to the Viaduct Tunnel at $2.4 billion and requires Seattle area taxpayers to pay all cost overruns.
Both believe the state's cap on spending is enforceable:
Holmes: “The cap on the state’s contributions is quite enforceable. It is essentially carved in stone.”
McKenna: “It's really going to come down to whether or not the Legislature wants to try and hold Seattle's feet to the fire and they don't do that through a law, they do that through the state transportation budget. That's where their real leverage is."
On the provision requiring Seattle to pay cost overruns, they have differing viewpoints:
Holmes: “It is not enforceable. . . . We are solid on that, we are very clear on that. It is a red herring.”
McKenna: "Once it's adopted, it's our job to defend it. A law which is adopted by the Legislature is presumptively constitutional.
If Seattle chooses to go ahead without addressing cost overruns now, that means in the event of cost overruns we will be locked in litigation with the state over the city's responsibility to pay. Even worse, we will have no standing to compel the state Legislature to lift the spending cap.
McKenna's final analysis: "This is going to be figured out by agreement with the city and the state Legislature."
That is why it is critical for Seattle elected leaders to stand together on the issue of cost overruns now before we enter into a final agreement with the state. We have a path to negotiate now for an agreement that protects Seattle from cost overruns. If we avoid the issue and wait for cost overruns to occur, we will be in the worst position of all -- an unfinished tunnel, lawyers litigating Seattle's share of cost overruns, and a state Legislature with the undeniable power to enforce its spending cap.
 Holmes’s quotes throughout: “City Attorney on Tunnel Cost Overruns: "The City Cannot Be Forced to Pay" - The Stranger’s SLOG 5/24/10 http://tinyurl.com/392c9kh
2 McKenna’s quotes throughout: KUOW’s Weekday 11/24/09 http://tinyurl.com/399svqu
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