Does it have a chance? 10-cent gas tax increase, bicycle fee fuel state House Dems’ transportation plan

By Jonathan Kaminsky
The Associated Press

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House Democrats unveiled a transportation revenue package today (Wednesday) that would raise $9.8 billion over the next decade with the help of a 10-cent gas tax bump, a new annual car-tab fee pegged at 0.7 percent of the vehicle’s value and more than $3 billion in new bonds.

Also included is a new $25 sales fee on bicycles sold for $500 or more, which is expected to bring in $1 million over the next ten years.

The plan, dubbed Connecting Washington, was introduced by Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee.

“If we do nothing, we will watch the infrastructure crumble,” said Clibborn. “Or . . . we can come together as House and Senate, [and] as Democrats and Republicans, pass this bill.”

Included in the package is nearly $900 million from a 0.3 percent hike in the hazardous-substance tax and almost $200 million generated from new county auditor fees of $5 for vehicle-tab renewals and $12 for title transfers.

In addition to $1 billion for state and local governments to maintain infrastructure, the package is meant to fund $3 billion to help pay for new and existing road projects, plus $123 million to pay for a third new 144-car ferry.

Included in that amount is $1 billion for connecting State Route 167 near Tacoma and State Route 509 near Seatac to Interstate 5, $450 million to complete the Columbia River Crossing and several hundred million dollars to extend Interstate 405 HOT lanes from Bellevue to Renton.

Not included is the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel replacement in Seattle.

Republicans skeptical

Republicans responded to Clibborn’s proposal with skepticism.

“We know that we have a need within the transportation system,” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “It’s whether this is the right time to address that need.”

''Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee, was more blunt in his criticism of the proposal, which would increase the current gas tax of 37.5 cents per gallon by 2 cents annually over five years.

“We should make sure our tax dollars go further before we reach further into the taxpayers’ pockets,” he said.

What it would take to pass

In order to be passed into law, any new taxes would have to receive a two-thirds vote in both chambers of the Legislature or simple majorities in both houses, followed by a vote of the people.

If all the projects are fully funded — and many of the projects will require more money, likely from the federal government — House Democrats estimate the proposal would create 56,000 jobs.

Last modified: February 20. 2013 7:37PM
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