Washington state on verge of 50-cent fuel tax rate?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/15/2013

As the calendar nears the end of the year, some Washington state lawmakers continue to work on a transportation funding plan that would make the state’s fuel tax rate the second highest in the nation.

The Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus this week revealed a $12.3 billion transportation package. The plan would increase the state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax by 11.5 cents to 49 cents per gallon. The only state with a higher tax rate is Connecticut – 54 cents.

The plan from 23 Republicans and two Democrats would fully fund the new State Route 520 floating bridge and would eliminate tolls on Interstate 90. In exchange, plans would be canceled for a new Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing.

Earlier this year the group balked at a plan from Gov. Jay Inslee and House Democrats to raise nearly $9 billion for roads and bridges through a tax package that included a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase. Funding was also included for the Columbia River Crossing project in Vancouver.

Republicans instead called for a transportation reform package. Senate Transportation Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, said at the time it was necessary to help ensure the state is stretching every dollar it has.

In exchange for backing a fuel tax increase, the group of Senate lawmakers wants the governor’s pursuit of a cap-and-trade law off the table. The proposal would regulate carbon emissions.

The Majority Coalition’s plan would pay for 51 projects around the state. It would also give King and Snohomish counties authority to support their transit systems through local-option taxes.

The governor has said he wants a transportation funding package on his desk by the end of this month. A special session to discuss a funding solution could come next week when lawmakers return to Olympia to select committee chairs for the 2014 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Washington, click here.

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