A transportation spending package calling for a 10-cent gas tax increase cleared its first hurdle on Monday, clearing the way for a debate and vote on the House floor with less than a week remaining in the 105-day legislative session.
The House Transportation Committee approved the $8.4 billion package by a 16-13 vote along party lines. In addition to raising the gas tax, the proposal would increase various weight fees and call for higher vehicle registration and title transfer fees.
“We are going to be moving forward and making sure the economy is creating jobs,” said committee chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island). “I think it’s a perfect time. Even though it does raise taxes and does raise fees, there are going to be places where people can point and say this made a difference in our lives.”
The revenue package targets a number of large transportation projects around the state, including the extensions of Highways 167 and 509, a new Columbia River bridge to Portland, reduction of Interstate 5 congestion near Joint Base Lewis-McChord and more lanes on Interstate 90 at Snoqualmie Pass.
The gas tax would be implemented over four years – 5 cents in the first year, 2 cents in the second and third year and one cent in the fourth year.
Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) said he wouldn’t support any new taxes without certain reforms, including improvements to the permitting process and shifting sales tax revenue from transportation projects back into the transportation fund.
“We said right from the beginning of session that in order to do this we are going to need some serious reforms. Why are we always higher than any other state on like projects? We are just going to take more money out of the tax payers’ pockets without making sure we are using the most effective way possible,” Orcutt said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Transportation Committee has scheduled a hearing on a similar spending package. The committee will take public testimony on Senate Bill 5920 on Tuesday at 8 a.m.