A plan to increase gas taxes 10.5 cents over the next year just passed the Washington state House of Representatives in a 51-41 vote, a day after the same bill failed.
The increase, along with boosts in car and truck weight fees, would support most of a 10-year, $10.04 billion package of highway expansions, ferry funding, maintenance, and bicycle-pedestrian projects.
House Bill 1954 would also allow King County to send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for Metro Transit, and 40 percent for city and county roads.
However, the bill will face turbulence in the Senate, where several Republicans either oppose the taxes, or oppose a $433 million payment toward the $3.5 billion I-5 Columbia River Crossing, between Vancouver and Portland. The CRC bridge plan includes light rail, leading some southwest Washington officials to warn about their constituents being yoked to future operating taxes for Portland-based Tri-Met.
The leading argument Thursday was that highway improvements are needed to sustain trade in Washington state. The largest single item is a $1.45 billion payment toward the “Puget Sound Gateway,” which would build extensions of Highway 167 to the Port of Tacoma, and Highway 509 passing through SeaTac between Seattle and south King County.
“This is a singular moment. This is a time when inaction is a loss of competitiveness,” argued Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo.
Gasoline taxes would increase 6 cents a gallon on Aug. 1, and another 4.5 cents July 1, 2014, if the bill is signed into law.
Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, opposed the bill, which would bring state’s total gas tax to 48 cents, compared to 26 cents currently in Idaho. “All this, and all the fees in this bill, are going to make it harder to do business in Washington, and they might as well move 20 miles across the border in Idaho,” he said.