Washington voters get final say on fuel tax hike

| 3/21/2002

State lawmakers have agreed to pass off to voters the question of whether to raise fuel and other taxes to help pay for a multibillion-dollar transportation improvement plan. The largest traffic-relief package in state history now must gain voter approval in a November election.

Legislators are seeking approval for a transportation package that includes a 9-cents-per-gallon fuel tax increase from the current 23 cents, a 1 percent sales tax on new and used vehicles, a 30 percent increase on the $1,600 annual registration fees for trucks and transfer sales-tax revenues from new highway construction from the state's general fund to the transportation budget starting in 2006.

A similar proposal stalled in the House last year because many lawmakers thought it was too expensive and wanted the public, not the legislature, to have final say.

OOIDA Vice President Todd Spencer says similar legislative proposals are to be expected throughout the nation this year because the federal government is threatening to cut funding. "But increases at this level are simply way out of line," says Spencer.

The legislature also agreed on a Puget Sound regional plan allowing voters to raise their own taxes and levy highway tolls for an additional $8.7 billion to pay for highway-improvement projects, including widening Interstate 405 and rebuilding the earthquake damaged Alaskan Way Viaduct.