Washington state governor submits transportation proposal

| 3/31/2003

Washington Gov. Gary Locke unveiled his 4-cent-a-gallon fuel-tax-increase proposal March 26 as part of a 10-year, $3.2 billion transportation fix, The Seattle Times reported.

He suggested lawmakers plan a negotiating marathon March 31 on the transportation issue.

Last November, voters resoundingly rejected a $7.7 billion transportation referendum that featured a 9-cent increase in the state's 23-cent-a-gallon fuel tax. Locke was co-chairman of the campaign.

Since then, the governor has quietly pressured the Legislature to pass transportation-efficiency and reform bills, followed by a scaled-back revenue plan, the newspaper reported. Locke is opposing general tax increases to balance the state's operating budget but is willing to back transportation taxes.

He considered his proposal "a jumping-off point, the basis for House and Senate counterproposals." He said both chambers have made significant concessions, with the House offering more for roads and the Senate moving away from an all-asphalt proposal.

Locke's plan is midway between what the two houses have in mind. The House Democrats offered a $2.6 billion proposal, including a 3-cent fuel-tax hike. Senate Republicans haven't gone public with a plan yet, but Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island, said he backs a $4.1 billion plan with a nickel fuel-tax increase.

The governor's plan also includes a 15 percent increase in trucking fees.

Locke said he agrees with the House Democrats' suggestion for including an emergency clause so the law would take effect immediately and exclude a voter referendum. Republicans oppose this clause.