ELECTION 2015: Voters in Washington State, Seattle will weigh in on transportation issues

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/7/2015

Voters in Washington State will weigh in next month on issues that include a 11.9-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase. It is an advisory question only.

The vote follows enactment this summer of a 7-cent fuel tax increase. The rate hike is part of a $16.1 billion transportation revenue bill signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The state’s 37.5-cent-per-gallon fuel tax rate was increased to 44.5 cents on Aug. 1. The rate is set to increase an additional 4.9 cents on July 1, 2016.

By next summer Washington will claim the third-highest diesel tax rate in the nation – behind only Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Advisory Vote 12 on the Nov. 3 ballot is the result of a voter-approved question on the 2007 ballot, which requires advisory votes for all tax increases approved by the state Legislature.

The eight-year-old Initiative 960 also mandates that information on the taxes and their supporters and opponents be included in the voters’ pamphlet. Information on how state lawmakers voted on the issue is also included.

Revenue from the fuel tax increase will be routed to the newly created Connecting Washington account within the Motor Vehicle Fund.

The biggest projects that will benefit from the new revenue deal include finishing the new state Route 520 bridge project across Lake Washington, widening Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass, and the North Spokane Corridor.

Also included in the new transportation funding plan are certain vehicle fee increases. Specifically for large trucks, fees increased Aug. 1 as follows:

  • Registrations for vehicles weighing 80,000 to 81,199 pounds increase from $1,740 to $1,830;
  • CDL reinstatements increase from $20 to $35;
  • CDL instruction permits increase from $10 to $40;
  • CDL knowledge exams increase from $10 to $35;
  • CDL classified skills exams increase from $100 to $250; and
  • Enhanced driver’s licenses and identicards increase from $15 to $54.

Also on the ballot in the city of Seattle is a $930 million transportation levy dubbed “Move Seattle.” Revenue raised through Proposition 1 would replace an existing nine-year levy that is set to expire at the end of this year.

Move Seattle is described by Mayor Ed Murray’s office as a “10-year transportation vision that integrates our plans for transit, walking, biking, and freight.”

Specifically, the new levy would use revenue raised via property taxes for projects that include filling potholes, paving streets, and improving road safety. The cost for the median Seattle household would be $275 annually for nine years – more than double the expense of the existing levy. Renters and businesses would also be tapped to help.

About $300 million would be used for congestion relief programs. Another $420 million would be applied for maintenance and repair programs, such as bridge seismic upgrades, while safe route programs would get $207 million.

The Seattle Times reports the largest portion of “congestion relief” money, however, would be used to convert arterials to “multimodal corridors” with bike paths and transit lanes. Advocates say having more choices would encourage people to drive less and as a result relieve congestion.

In the city of Enumclaw, voters will decide on a one-tenth percent sales and use tax increase for transportation improvements.

Proposition 1 in the community located south of Seattle along state Highway 410 would authorize the sales tax increase for a period of 10 years.

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