Washington state governor pursues 'cap-and-trade' transportation deal

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/24/2014

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a plan to raise $12 billion in new revenue to address the state’s most-pressing transportation needs. Specifically, the plan would pay for fixing bridges, patching roads, cleaning air and water and completing major regional projects.

The governor said his initiative would be funded through bonding, fees and a proposed carbon charge on industrial polluters, such as the oil and gas industry. He pointed out that it would not require an increase in the state fuel tax.

Rather than increase the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon tax rate, Inslee said the plan would raise revenue from the state’s “worst polluters.”

“This market-based carbon pollution fee, along with other bonds and previously agreed-to fees, will raise $12.2 billion over 12 years to pay for balanced investment across the state,” Inslee wrote in a letter touting the plan.

He also said the nearly $4.8 billion over 12 years the cap-and-trade system would raise would be the equivalent of a 12-cent fuel tax increase.

The plan addresses safety, a backlog of maintenance needs, traffic congestion relief, accountability and reform in the Washington State Department of Transportation, and clean transportation options.

Safety enhancements would include an improved bridge-height alert system on aging bridges, additional rumble strips and guardrails. The Washington State Patrol would also be fully funded.

The plan would also benefit Snohomish County freight improvement projects and completion of the Interstate 90 Snoqualmie Pass safety-and-corridor improvements.

The Inslee administration says that without new investment being approved during the upcoming regular session, the state will face a 52 percent decrease in the maintenance budget, and 71 more bridges will be added to the list of structurally deficient bridges.

“We simply need to get it done,” Inslee stated. “Our goal cannot be to get all of what we each might want, but instead to get what the state needs.”

State lawmakers can address the issue during the regular session that begins Jan. 12, 2015.

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