Higher fuel taxes OK'd in Washington state Senate

| Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Washington state Senate has approved an effort that would force drivers to pay a lot more fuel taxes at the pump to help pay for roads and bridges.

The road-building plan would raise $8 billion in the next 16 years with the aid of a 9.5 cent-per-gallon fuel tax boost in the next four years, The Associated Press reported.

Senators voted 26-22 Wednesday, April 20, to send the bill – SB6103 – to the Democratic-led House for further consideration. If approved there, it would go before Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign it.

A vote is scheduled before the Sunday, April 24, adjournment deadline.

Supporters said the package is the only way to pay for necessary 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.

Opponents ripped the plan, saying it should be referred to voters for final approval if it clears the Legislature.

The plan would bump the state’s 28-cents-per-gallon fuel tax by 3 cents a gallon in July for each of the next two years, 2 cents in July 2006 and a final 1.5-cent boost a year later. The Legislature raised it from 23 cents a year ago.

It also includes a new vehicle weight fee that would add between $5 and $25 to annual licensing fees, as well as tolls and local-option tax increases for cities and counties.

The Democratic-led Senate significantly altered their plan for passage.

Democrats knocked nearly 6 cents off the fuel tax provision and agreed to an independent performance audit provision for transportation projects sought by Republicans.

House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, put the odds at “better than 50-50” for passage in the House. According to The AP, it could come down to how many Republicans switch over to support the effort.

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