House Democrats on Tuesday released a slimmed-down transportation tax package that would spend $8.4 billion on various projects, including extensions of Highways 167 and 509 as well as work on Interstate 405 and I-5.
Back in February they released a plan to spend nearly $10 billion. The new version drops proposals for a politically unpopular car-tab tax, equal to 0.7 percent of a vehicle’s value, as well as a hazardous substance tax and a bicycle tax.
The proposal retains plans to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, phased in over four years. It also includes various weight fees and some local option taxes.
In addition to money for highway projects in the Puget Sound region, the package includes $450 million for a new bridge over the Columbia River that the GOP-led caucus in the Senate has firmly rejected.
Senate Republicans have pushed for that project to be removed from the proposal because of concerns the new bridge would not be high enough for companies to move cargo and equipment under it.
House Democrats released a statement that included a quote from Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima, who said “Members of both parties can agree to the critical need to invest in our transportation system and though I don’t agree with everything in this package, I agree that we need to have this conversation.”
Senate Republicans confirmed the quote, but it wasn’t immediately clear if King was just speaking for himself.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told state lawmakers recently that the state needs to commit several hundred million dollars toward completing a multibillion dollar Columbia River crossing or risk losing up to $1.2 billion in federal support.
House Democrats plan to move the tax package out of committee this week, and have a floor vote next week.
The Legislature is running out of time to act. April 28 is the last day of the regular session and lawmakers have yet negotiate a state operating budget.