Washington state special session to tackle transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/11/2013

Washington state lawmakers are back at the statehouse this week to hammer out a deal to pay for needed road and bridge work. The effort follows a failed attempt earlier this year in Olympia to come up with a plan to fund transportation.

Gov. Jay Inslee called lawmakers back for a special session to approve a series of bills that include a transportation revenue package.

Discussion on funding has been prevalent for state lawmakers 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.

The governor and House Democrats previously pursued a nearly $9 billion tax package that included a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase to pay for road and bridge work.

Republicans, who lead the Senate, instead called for a transportation reform package before shifting discussion to increasing the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax. In recent months, Senate Republicans have gone around the state on a feedback tour to talk with residents.

Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, said the 10-city tour has given lawmakers a better perspective about what people want. In a released statement he referred to one speaker who made it clear “the only way people are going to be comfortable with an additional gas tax is if they’re sure the state has sewn shut the hole in DOT’s pocket.”

Some lawmakers would rather wait to revisit road funding after the first of the year when the next regular session convenes. The governor says there is no time to waste.

“The need for action is increasingly urgent,” Inslee said in recent remarks. “Our state’s transportation challenges aren’t going away.”

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