Washington Governor Gary
Locke earlier this week rekindled a $13.6 billion plan to tackle the state's
transportation woes. Locke also asked lawmakers to approve higher truck registration
fees, add a 3-cent-a-gallon surcharge for diesel fuel and impose a small surtax
on car sales.
The proposal, which is
basically the same proposal that died in the state legislature last summer,
would be anchored by a 9-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase that would raise
about $8.5 billion over 10 years to pay for road and bridge projects across
the state. It would also pay for ferry improvements and better rail and mass
transit. The fuel tax would be boosted by 3 cents a year for three years.
The tax, currently 23 cents a gallon, would rise to 32 cents by the third
Locke offered few specifics
on why he thinks his proposal can succeed now, other than saying it is "the
right thing." His plan stalled in the House last July because many lawmakers
thought it was too expensive and wanted the public, not the legislature, to
have final say on the fuel-tax increase. The governor, though, has insisted
that with the economy slumping after the terrorist attacks, elected leaders
must take quick and decisive action, rather than wait for a public vote next
OOIDA board member Charlie
Parfrey of Spokane says the voters will not tolerate being bypassed regarding
a tax increase. "If the legislature passes a tax increase without allowing
the voters to have a say you can bet a referendum will quickly follow to put
a vote to the people," says Parfrey. "And you can bet that the voters
will put the increase to rest."
Some lawmakers have been
floating a compromise in recent weeks to reduce the statewide tax package.
An 8-cent fuel-tax increase, with 4 cents being approved by the legislature
and 4 cents going to voters for approval is being discussed for a special
election in the spring. The legislature is scheduled to begin a 60-day session