A $10 billion transportation tax package failed in the state House on Wednesday when it didn’t muster the 50 votes needed for passage.
Democrats control the House with a 55-seat majority, but seven members of their caucus voted against the proposal and one was excused from voting. Only one Republican voted for it, and the measure failed 48-42.
Democrats say they had been expecting more Republican votes than they got and are likely to try again, possibly by Thursday. But it’s not clear where they’ll get the additional votes needed to pass the bill. Senate Republicans don’t want to vote on the package, which includes a state gas-tax increase of 10.5 cents per gallon, and they have sent that message to House Republicans.
“I’ve been in a couple of meetings with Sen. (Curtis) King. He was doubtful he would be able to pass it on that side. He had some influence on how we think about it here. We don’t want to waste our vote here and have it go over there and nothing happens,” said Rep. Terry Nealy, R-Dayton.
King, R-Yakima, is co-chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
He’s not the only Republican senator talking to counterparts in the House. Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, said he’s also talked to House Republicans. “We were saying ‘make sure you understand what the transportation budget is doing,’” Litzow said, adding that he did not ask them to vote no.
Under the proposal, the gas tax would increase 6 cents per gallon this year and an additional 4.5 cents per gallon next year.
In addition to the gas tax, the proposal would increase various weight and title fees, including a 15 percent boost in weight fees for freight trucks of more than 10,000 pounds. It also includes local option taxes, including a motor-vehicle excise tax of up to 1.5 percent of vehicle value in counties with more than 1 million people, if approved by voters.
The package allocates nearly $3.3 billion for major projects including work on Interstate 405, Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, and a new Columbia River crossing on Interstate 5. Nearly $1.1 billion of it would go toward preservation and maintenance of highways and bridges.
More than $500 million would go to support public transportation, and millions more would be spent on bicycle and pedestrian paths and safe routes to schools.