In the wake of multiple failed attempts this year at the Washington statehouse to come up with a plan to fund transportation, there could be one more attempt to get something done.
State lawmakers have been talking a lot about funding for most of the year. However, efforts to address new revenue for roads, bridges and transit have gone unresolved through one regular session and two special sessions.
Gov. Jay Inslee and House Democrats pursued a nearly $9 billion tax package that included a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for road and bridge work, including a new Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing.
Republicans, who lead the Senate, instead called for a transportation reform package before discussion shifts to increasing the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax.
“Before we go to the public asking for more money, the state needs to prove that it’s already stretching every dollar it has,” Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said in a recent news release.
The two sides have been unable to reach agreement delaying a resolution on the issue. Undeterred, the governor is ready to get back to work this fall.
“The need for action is increasingly urgent,” Inslee said in prepared remarks. “Our state’s transportation challenges aren’t going away.”
The governor said he would wait to see whether lawmakers can work out a deal before he makes the call for a special session.
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, put up a stop sign for the governor. He said the issue can wait until after the first of the year when lawmakers convene the next regular session.
“The difference between addressing our transportation issues in November during a special session that costs taxpayers more money, or January when the Legislature is scheduled to be in session, is negligible,” Orcutt stated.
In the meantime, Orcutt said that lawmakers would be better served to review a study commissioned by the Legislature to examine why transportation projects cost more in Washington than other states. The study is expected to be available for review after the first of the year.
Inslee has offered an enticement for lawmakers to reach agreement. The governor said he would take funding for the Columbia River Crossing project off the table. Senate Republicans oppose project plans that include a light-rail line.
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