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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

December 18, 2013 at 6:52 PM

No deal on transportation-tax package this year; talks to continue

Legislative leaders said Wednesday there will be no special session to pass a multibillion dollar transportation package, but talks will continue during the regular session that starts in January.

Negotiators from both parties gathered Wednesday in the governor’s office for their 12th round of talks  since the Legislature adjourned earlier this year, only to emerge after several hours to say no immediate deal was possible.

“Today it’s become clear that this particular phase of the process has run its course,” Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said during an impromptu news conference at his office. “The next step will be to continue this dialogue in the legislative process.”

Lawmakers said both sides are closer on the issues that separate them, and that they’re more optimistic a deal can be reached during the regular session that starts Jan. 13

The GOP-led majority in the Senate and the Democratic majority in the House have been trying to reach agreement on a tax package that would increase the state gas tax by more than 10 cents a gallon and fund about $10 billion to $12 billion worth in transportation spending over the next 12 years, including the new Highway 520 bridge and improvements to Interstate 405 and I-90.

Lawmakers have been under pressure from business and labor to reach agreement. Boeing, always concerned about its ability to move people and products on the state’s highways, has indicated passage of a transportation package could factor into its decision about where to build the 777X.

Gov. Jay Inslee had promised to call a special session before the end of the year if negotiators could reach agreement, and if they were sure they had the votes.

Negotiators say they’ve been unable to surmount disagreements over issues including stormwater treatment, sales taxes collected from transportation projects, and funding for public transportation.

One of the biggest involves how to spend sales-tax revenue from transportation projects. That money now goes into the state general fund, which pays for operating expenses including health care and education.

The Senate majority wants that slice of sales-tax revenue to be applied to transportation projects, estimating it could boost spending by $750 million over the next 12 years. Democrats want the money to remain in the general fund, saying the state will need billions of dollars in the coming years to meet a state Supreme Court mandate to increase funding for education.

Comments | More in Governor, Politics Northwest, State government, State Legislature | Topics: gov. jay inslee, Highway 520 bridge, transportation tax package


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