Dems, GOP set to spar over future of Washington’s transportation budget

Feb 23, 2021, 3:08 PM | Updated: 3:52 pm
Seattle traffic, transportation...
(AP file photo)
(AP file photo)

The Washington Legislature has a trio of competing proposals right now for the state’s transportation budget over the next decade-plus.

WA Rep: Democrats’ gas taxes could be ‘rammed through this year’

The most recent one comes from Republican state Sen. Curtis King, who is looking to raise Washington’s gas tax by 3 cents, increase taxes on bicycle parts and sales by 2%, and add a 20-cent surcharge for transit and light rail riders.

A majority of the revenue generated from those taxes and fees would go toward highway maintenance and preservation, focusing on megaprojects like the US 2 Trestle, the I-5 Columbia River Bridge, the West Seattle Bridge, and Snoqualmie Pass.

“It’s time we made everybody contribute and pay for what they use,” Sen. King told The Seattle Times.

That operates in stark contrast to a pair of transportation packages from state Senator Rebecca Saldana (D-Seattle) and Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma).

Sen. Saldana’s $14.3 billion proposal would raise most of its revenue from a carbon fee and a vehicle emissions fee, a 3 cent gas tax increase, and a luxury yacht tax. Money raised by that plan would go toward multimodal investments, transitioning to clean fuel sources, and removing fish passage barriers.

Why do Washington voters keep rejecting a carbon fee?

Rep. Fey’s $27 billion plan is even more ambitious in its targeting of green initiatives, including an 18-cent gas tax increase and a $15-per-ton carbon fee, while investing $2.5 million in carbon reduction investments.

It remains unclear which plan will be favored by state Senate Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens), who has vowed to incorporate parts of each into his own final proposal that he’s calling “Forward Washington.”

That said, Hobbs has also indicated that he believes a carbon fee is coming, one way or another.

“A good portion of the transportation package ‘Forward Washington’ is funded by carbon, simply because we all know that there is some form of carbon pricing system that we are eventually going to move to,” he said during a work session in January. “It’s good for the environment; it’s a way to fund transportation projects in the future.”

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Dems, GOP set to spar over future of Washington’s transportation budget