Washington state Senate submits transportation plan

| Thursday, April 03, 2003

A bipartisan Washington state Senate highways panel on March 28 released a 10-year, $4.1 billion plan that includes a 5-cent-a-gallon fuel tax increase, according to local media.

The plan, outlined by five Republicans and four Democrats, sets up a showdown with the Democratic-controlled House, which wants less emphasis on roads and more money for mass transit and other transportation choices, KIRO television in Seattle reported.

The Senate package has the highest price tag of any proposed to date. Last week, House Democrats revealed a $2.6 billion plan that includes a 3-cent fuel tax hike and a 15 percent trucking fee increase.

Gov. Gary Locke has released his own plan as a possible compromise. It offers a 4-cent fuel tax hike as part of a 10-year, $3.2 billion transportation fix and a 15 percent surcharge for trucks and motor homes.

All three proposals are scaled-down versions of Referendum 51, the 9-cent fuel tax increase initiative that voters resoundingly defeated in November.

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

Senate and House leaders are expected to negotiate as early as this week to find a common ground. Lawmakers say they hope to pass a package in Olympia, rather than calling for a voter referendum, as the Legislature did last year.

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