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Carbon fee measure stays alive in state Legislature

(AP)

A massive, $15 billion transportation spending measure that includes a carbon fee and a gas tax hike made it past the deadline to get out of committee Wednesday.

RELATED: How latest proposed carbon fee differs from the failed I-1631

Comprised of a trio of bills and sponsored by Democratic Senator Steve Hobbs, the proposal would fund the removal of culverts blocking fish passages, build electric-powered ferries, pay for the state’s contribution for a new I-5 bridge over the Columbia River, and more.

One of the three bills from Hobbs contains a measure that has proven unpopular among Washington voters: A carbon fee.

Hobbs’ proposed fee would charge $15 per metric ton of carbon, and would be funneled directly to the various projects laid out in his legislation.

“If you look at it, it’s probably the biggest infrastructure package geared toward environmental improvement to our state,” Hobbs told MyNorthwest back in December, when the idea was first proposed. “While at the same time, it does provide quite a bit of an investment into our transportation network.”

The transportation package — approved Wednesday by the Senate Transportation Committee that Hobbs chairs — will next head to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further deliberation.

RELATED: State senator renews push for carbon fee

Most recently, state voters struck down a similar $15 per metric ton carbon fee in the form of I-1631, by a 56.6 to 43.4 percent margin. I-1631 proved divisive and, like other carbon fee proposals, it was difficult to gain approval. Local figures, such as Bill Gates, supported the initiative. But some climate experts opposed it.

Before that, Washington voted down a different carbon fee measure in 2016, while another proposed state carbon tax died in the Legislature earlier this year.

Other measures that manages to stay alive past Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline in the Legislature included:

  • A proposed increase in fines for HOV lane violators
  • Increased registration fees for electric cars
  • A measure that would allow cities to regulate electric scootershare programs, and require companies to carry insurance coverage
  • A bill to authorize tolling on new sections of I-405, SR 167, and SR 509
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