Transportation policymakers in the Washington state House
have joined their counterparts in the Senate by proposing higher fuel taxes to
help pay for roadwork.
House lawmakers last week unveiled a budget plan that would
raise $8.4 billion during the next 16 years with the aid of a
9.5-cents-per-gallon fuel tax boost in the next four years.
The Senate version goes further. It would generate $9.1
billion in the same time period with a 15 cents-per-gallon fuel tax hike in the
next 12 years.
Washington’s state fuel tax currently is 28 cents per gallon
– among the highest in the nation.
Both proposals call for money to go for projects such as the
replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle and a new Highway 520
floating bridge across Lake Washington, linking Seattle and Bellevue, as well
as congestion relief, farm-to-market projects and local roads across the state.
The new House plan, written by House Transportation
Committee Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, calls for a 3-cent-per-gallon increase
in July for each of the next two years, 2 cents in July 2007 and a final
1.5-cent boost a year later.
The Senate package would bump the state’s fuel tax by 3
cents a gallon this summer, 2 cents next year and a penny a year after that for
the next 10 years. The Legislature raised it from 23 cents a year ago.
Both plans include a new vehicle weight fee that would add
between $5 and $25 to the annual licensing fee, as well as tolls and
local-option tax increases for cities and counties to help pay for
Gov. Christine Gregoire called on House and Senate
transportation leaders to work on a compromise, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Lawmakers have less than a week remaining in their regular session.
Insiders say the prospects for passing a major transportation package remain
“Tax votes are always difficult,” Murray said. “The chances
are not great, not bad, just good.”
His Senate counterpart, Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano
Island, welcomed the House plan, but said there are significant differences
between the two proposals.
Murray told the newspaper she is holding out hope an
agreement can be reached.
“We can’t walk away and do nothing,” she said.
The House transportation package bills are HB2312, HB2311
and HB1027. The Senate plans are SB6091 and SB6103.