Higher fuel taxes sent to Washington state governor

| Monday, April 25, 2005

Washington state lawmakers have approved a multibillion-dollar transportation package that includes a boost in the state’s fuel tax.

The road-building plan calls for raising $8.5 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.

The state House approved the package Saturday, April 23, on a 54-43 vote. Senators cleared the plan earlier in the week on a vote of 26-22. It now moves to Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign it.

“This is the single biggest investment in infrastructure in the history of Washington state,” Senate Transportation Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after the House votes were tabulated. Haugen, D-Camano Island, reportedly embraced and kissed her House counterpart, Ed Murray, D-Seattle, who “looked dazed” at the successful outcome.

Supporters said the package is the only way to pay for necessary projects such as the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, a new Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington, linking Seattle and Bellevue, and improvements on Interstates 405 and 90. It also would finance hundreds of road and bridge projects, rail, ferries and other improvements across the state.

Opponents ripped the plan, saying it the tax increase is too steep and should have been referred to voters for final approval.

The plan bumps the state’s 28-cents-per-gallon fuel tax by 3 cents per gallon in July for each of the next two years, 2 cents in July 2007 and a final 1.5-cent boost a year later. A year ago the Legislature raised it from 23 cents per gallon.

It also includes a new vehicle weight fee that would add between $10 and $30 to the annual licensing fee, as well as tolls and local-option tax increases for cities and counties.

The transportation package is SB6103.

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